Saturday, February 12, is going to be a big, bold, goose bump-y splash of a day along the Hudson River. For the first time, there will be not one but two fund-raising plunges into the icy waters of the river, on behalf of Gullotta House, the institution that works tirelessly to assist those suffering hardship in our community.
The tradition of the plunge – which takes place either at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow, called the Headless Horseman Plunge; or Louis Engle Park Beach in Ossining, called the Escape from Sing Sing Plunge – began in 2016, the winter after Gullotta House was founded by Matt Gullotta in 2015. That first cold dip raised $6,000, but by 2021 the amount had risen to $31,000. This year, to mark the fifth anniversary of the event, there will be the first double plunge, one at each site, and a competition between the two to see which one can raise the most money.
Gullotta himself will be plunging at both, typical of a man who has devoted himself to the non-profit that has done so much for those in need locally. The impetus behind his work derives from his own experience, both as a child and later as an adult. “When I was very small, in 1974, my family lost everything in a fire, and the community in Tarrytown rallied round, to give us clothes, shoes, toys.” But when his mother applied for funds from family services, she was turned away because the Gullottas had earned too much money the year before.
In 2007, Gullotta himself was suffering financial hardship, after he, his wife and son had all undergone major surgery. “I wasn’t humble. I thought I was, but I had to learn that it wasn’t about me, it was about the children. I was embarrassed to ask for help, but I was treated with so much respect by the community. If I hadn’t been, I would never have taken the assistance.”
It was on this foundation that he built an organization offering aid to anyone in need. Now, some 50 volunteers help out at Gullotta House, and 35 community advisers connect it to people who need a helping hand. Others come through the website, or organizations like the Domestic Violence Commission. “It’s okay to ask for help,” Gullotta insists. “It’s not forever. It’s to help people get back on their feet.”
And Dr. Gayle Marchica, president of the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce, says: “The Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce commends Gullotta House on their ongoing effort to assist the most vulnerable. They truly embody the essence of giving a ‘hand-up’ when it is most needed. We are proud to participate in the upcoming plunge and help contribute to the Gullotta House mission.”
Laura Rey Iannarelli, president of the Sleepy Hollow Tarrytown Chamber of Commerce, adds: “The residents of our communities are well-known for going above-and-beyond to help our neighbors, but once a year on a cold day in February, they go BELOW and beyond. The annual Headless Horseman Charity Plunge, organized by Gullotta House, is a fun way to support the community (whether or not you brave the water yourself), and should be even more exciting this year with two times/locations. I look forward to seeing you there!”
And Jerry Flora, head football coach of the Sleepy Hollow High School team, says: “On behalf of Sleepy Hollow Football we are pleased to join the Gullotta House Headless Horseman Plunge in 2022. Such a great organization doing great things for the community.”
The money raised by the plunges goes back to the community, to local food pantries, scholarships, and those enduring emergency hardship, from fires, floods, domestic violence, or other problems. And the winners of this year’s fund-raising competition between Tarrytown and the village of Sleepy Hollow versus Ossining in the battle of the Rivertowns will get a $1,000 donation to their recreation department, to assist with activities for children, as well as a trophy.
If you want to donate, or even plunge, details are on the Gullotta House website: gullottahouse.org.