The Fundraiser as Cultural Phenomenon: When It Works, You Know It

From the 2017 Dip. KickingTheShiteOutOfCancer.com

June 10, 2018; New York Times

On Saturday, at Magheramore Beach, around 30 miles from Dublin, thousands of naked Irish women of all ages and sizes braved 53° waters to break the world skinny-dipping record and raise money to fight cancer.

The 2,505 women who managed to stay in the water for at least five minutes succeeded at both goals, decisively walloping the old record of 786 skinny-dippers set in Australia three years ago in water that was a toasty 73 degrees.

Of course, some found additional value and meaning in the event. Deirdre Betson of Dunboyne said, “Oh my god, it was amazing. I have never been naked in front of anybody before, except my husband, and it was brilliant and bracing. We are all different shapes and sizes and ages, and it was just super!”

Dee Featherstone, a Dubliner, began this annual “Strip and Dip” swim in 2013, just weeks after her mastectomy. She was amazed by this year’s attendance. “I thought we might get 1,500, but it just got bigger and bigger,” she said. “The whole beach was just awash with us—it was just incredible.”

“Half the people who were there either had cancer or were affected by cancer or were supporting somebody or remembering someone who had cancer,” said Featherstone. “Every woman had their own little story of why they did it. It was very empowering.”

Since 2013, the events have raised more than €153,000, or about $180,000, not counting what this year brings. But nothing happens in isolation, and the event, coming as it did on the heels of a landslide vote to allow abortion in that country, may, for many, attach a special and historic cultural meaning to the gathering.—Ruth McCambridge