Subzero Hero Preps For First Plunge to End Alzheimer’s


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HIGHLAND – Mary Ann Costa of Newburgh is taking the plunge at Subzero Heroes for the first time at Berean Lake in Highland on Sunday, March 13. This fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter involves jumping into a lake wearing a costume to raise money for the cause. People must raise at least $200 to jump into the water as Heroes, or they can register as Sidekicks, who don’t jump but help Heroes raise money and recruit team members. Registration for the event is open at subzeroheroes.org.

Facing her first jump, Costa sought advice on how to best brave the cold. Longtime participant Meg Boyce of Poughkeepsie, vice president for programs and services at the Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter, advised her to wear shorts and a tank top or bathing suit.

“The more you have on, the harder it is to get in and the more you might get weighed down,” Costa said, noting that Boyce had mentioned the Ulster County Dive Rescue Team NY is there to assist jumpers and that the shock may make her lose her breath temporarily.

“I’ve actually tried to take some cold showers,” Costa said. “I can’t even stand to go in my cold pool.” She said she takes inspiration from her Beach Body trainer, who said you can do anything for 60 seconds, adding that the cold showers are an effort to learn to better tolerate the cold.

“For me, it’s about getting in the shower when it’s cold. I need to get a rally around me, and support is everything. I believe in ‘Go big or go home.’ I set up a team, and I got support, and I got a sponsor for $500 — a Wonder Woman sponsor — and I’m asking everyone to come out and cheer me on, and I know there’s no way I can’t do it. It’s for a great cause. I think I’m most nervous about what I’m going to wear,” she added.

Culinary Institute Chef Scott Swartz and his students will be on site at Berean Lake with gourmet soup for participants, and hot chocolate with marshmallows from Hudson Valley Marshmallow Company will be available. As in recent years, there will also be a costume contest, so Heroes are invited to get creative with their attire.

Costa said she’s already figured out her costume.

“I got this idea to do a costume of Scuba Steve. It comes from a movie called ‘Big Daddy,’ and in the movie, they are trying to get the little boy to take a bath, and he doesn’t want to go in the bathtub, so Adam Sandler, his guardian, dressed up in this suit as Scuba Steve. I found a Halloween costume of Scuba Steve, so I’m going to wear shorts and a Scuba Steve T-Shirt underneath it. My team are the Scuba Steve Squad. I’ve going to have my costume on and then strip it off and jump in with my shorts and T-shirt. I found T-shirts that said Scuba Steve’s Squad, and I have a coworker and team member whose family has a screen-printing company that will print them up for the whole team.”

For Costa, the cause is deeply personal, through her best friend Kathy McDermott’s Aunt Marion, Marion Wolfrum, who she knew for 25 years before she passed away two years ago. Alzheimer’s overshadowed her last six years, and in the end she was housebound. Costa now lives in Wolfrum’s house.

She said the contrast between who Aunt Marion was before Alzheimer’s and who she became was particularly stark because of how active she had been.

“She was an avid camper like myself and had an RV. She was an avid swimmer who had her own pool. That was how we got to know her; we would go over and swim in her pool — which is now my pool. She had a pool in her back yard where my kids wanted to swim.”

“We would come and swim in her pool in the summertime, and it was sometime in the winter, when my best friend Kathy told me Aunt Marion was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s — and it was devastating. We had spoken, and I had seen some signs of her being forgetful, but she was elderly. She might forget what my kids’ names were, but I didn’t think anything of that.”

While the progression of the disease for Wolfrum was fairly swift, her overall reaction was one of anger.

“She was angry, and she just holed up in her room. She didn’t want to do anything. She just got really angry and sad and quiet. She wouldn’t even put on the TV in the end,” Costa said. “I try to remember all that she loved to do and how kind and giving and loving she was, but I never forget about the turn of events and how angry it made her. Alzheimer’s just robs you of your life, and your family as well. People don’t know how to handle it and just stay away instead of visiting. Just when you need them the most, they’re not capable of being there.”

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