Eastern Connecticut State University rugby coach Ray Aramini and his men’s rugby team are once again hosting its annual Plunge for Hunger to benefit the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, but in a very different way.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 10th Annual Olga Ezis Plunge for Hunger will be entirely virtual on Saturday, Feb. 6, on the plunge’s tenth anniversary.
To participate in the virtual plunge, participants can take a picture or video of themselves “plunging” into water and then send in a donation, said Aramini. Participants upload the photo or video to the Covenant Soup Kitchen’s Facebook page and share. To make a donation, participants can go to www.covenantsoupkitchen.org, and scroll down to the “Plunge for Hunger” polar bear box. Photos or videos can be posted and donations made through
Aramini hopes people will come together to safely participate in the virtual plunge. Participants, he said, can be creative and jump into a hot tub or bathtub, pour a glass of ice cold water over their heads, dip a toe in water, or hop into an ocean or lake. Costumes, he said, are always encouraged.
Donations are even more critical this year as the The Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation and Leo J. and Rose Pageau Trust will match a total of $80,000. The virtual plunge is the Covenant Soup Kitchen’s biggest fundraiser in which 100 percent of the proceeds go to the organization.
The event began 10 years ago when two rugby players, Patrick Scully and Nick ‘Fitz’ Fitzner created a fundraiser for a bike trip from Washington to Willimantic to raise money for the soup kitchen. About 30 people showed up to the first polar plunge and raised $2,000. This year, the plunge stands to raise $160,000 or more.
“It is our 10th Anniversary this year and while we are sad that COVID is keeping us apart, we hope you will find a way to come together to participate in our virtual Plunge for Hunger,” said Aramini. “It has been a tough time for so many people and we are very grateful for the unwavering support of the community.”
Aramini has been working in the soup kitchen throughout the pandemic where demand has been unprecedented. “The profound mission of the soup kitchen is feeding hungry people,” he said. “No matter what the political or public health climate is, people are still hungry and the soup kitchen’s first and foremost mission is to meet that need.”
Eastern Connecticut’s rugby team is also known for meeting the needs of their Willimantic community. The players volunteer at the soup kitchen and at concerts to benefit the soup kitchen. They shovel snow, stack wood, volunteer for Special Olympics and do whatever needs to be done in the community.
Aramini is incredibly proud of his team, which he describes as a good group of guys.” It’s so exciting for a group of 18-21 year-olds be able to see a tangible difference in their actions,” he said. “It is important to know where the money goes that you put your sweat behind. They volunteer at the soup kitchen and breathe the same air as the folks in the soup kitchen.”
The year has been incredibly difficult for the team with cancelled rugby seasons, and a virtual event which normally attracts hundreds of volunteers, participants and family to Willimantic’s Natchaug River, always on the first Saturday of February.
Next year, Aramini hopes, the Plunge for Hunger will be real, not virtual. “After all,” he said, “Community service is what this team is about.”