VENTNOR — Cheryl McBride laughed at the idea that anyone could have been bothered by the rain and chilly temperatures that turned the shore into a dreary mess Saturday morning.
Her thoughts were on another stormy day, when Hurricane Sandy slammed into the New Jersey coast Oct. 29, 2012, flooding her Margate home with a foot of water.
“Compared to Sandy, this is nothing,” McBride said of Saturday’s drenching weather.
So it was hardly surprising that McBride and others shrugged off the rain and took to the water to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy during a paddleboard race dubbed Freezin’ for a Reason.
The event, now in its second year, followed a 5.7-mile course along the intracoastal waters of Ventnor and Chelsea Heights in Atlantic City. There also was a 2.5-mile course around the Dorset Avenue Bridge for paddlers who wanted a less strenuous trip.
About 100 of the 138 paddleboarders who signed up for the fundraiser showed up, said race organizer Sean Duffey. Some came from as far away as Virginia Beach, Va., Long Island, N.Y., and northern New Jersey. Sven Peltonen, of Brigantine, was the first-place finisher.
Originally scheduled for January, the event was postponed because of frigid temperatures and icy waters. Despite the soaking rains Saturday, Duffey said he never considered calling it off again.
“It’s for a good cause,” he said. “A lot of people are still being affected by Sandy.”
McBride, for one, still has not fully recovered from the hurricane. She and her two daughters were forced from their Benson Avenue home in Margate for six months, staying at friends’ houses for months at a time while they were displaced.
They are finally back home, but McBride explained that she is trying to secure grant funding so that she can hire contractors to raise her house above flood levels. That way, she could avoid paying the sharply higher post-Sandy premiums for flood insurance.
The hurricane delivered another cruel blow to McBride. Her husband, Frank, had died of cancer in June 2012. Sandy’s floodwaters ruined the furniture, pictures and other prized possessions McBride had shared with her husband.
“It was like a double whammy for me,” she said. “Unfortunately, it cleaned out a lot of memories.”
McBride’s close friend, Erika Salminen, of Northfield, also noted the hardships that McBride has endured. Salminen said McBride inspired her to participate in Saturday’s fundraiser.
“It’s a good day for a paddle,” Salminen joked of the soggy conditions.
McBride, Salminen and other paddleboarders were clad in full-body wetsuits when they pushed off from the Ventnor boat ramp at the bay end of Dorset Avenue. The red, orange, yellow and green paddleboards made for a colorful flotilla heading toward Atlantic City.
During a pre-race briefing, Duffey warned the boarders that the water temperature was just 40 degrees.
Duffey, of Somers Point, is a physical education teacher at Atlantic City High School and spends his summers as a Longport lifeguard. He conceived of the fundraiser while sharing dinner one night with his parents, John and Mary Ann Duffey, of Egg Harbor Township.
“We were sitting around the dinner table and he said, ‘I’m thinking about doing a paddle for Sandy,’” John Duffey recalled. “He set up a blog and right away six people responded, including a girl from California. It grew from there.”
Duffey works with the environmental group Waves for Water and the local paddleboard and surfing community on the fundraiser. Last year, the event raised $10,460. It raised an estimated $8,000 on Saturday, although final figures were pending.
“Last year, it was supposed to be just a one-year event,” Duffey said. “But it was such a success that we kept it going.”
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