Local man raises thousands for cancer patients with backyard plunge

Local man raises thousands for cancer patients with backyard plunge

Shane Letendre, organizer of the Plunge for A Cure, gets his body accustomed to the icy cold water of his pool. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

WOONSOCKET – How far would you go to help cancer patients and their families as they go through treatment? Would you jump into an icy cold pool filled with freezing water and blocks of ice?

For Shane Letendre of Woonsocket and his friends, the answer is simple. Last weekend, the group did just that at their 6th annual Plunge for a Cure at his home on Holland Avenue. The annual event has become an end-of-summer tradition and raised close to $4,500 for cancer-related organizations over the years.

The event started back in 2014 shortly after Letendre’s mother died of cancer. Trying to find a way to cope with the grief, he and his friends decided to do something that would give back to the community.

“It had been a little bit of a tough time and I was finally getting back to myself, and the ice bucket challenge started coming around,” he explained.

Taking their cue from the popular internet sensation that raised awareness of ALS, the group decided to create their own version to support cancer patients. Fanning out across local convenience stores, they purchased dozens of bags of ice and filled his swimming pool until it was almost overflowing. Then they took the plunge, taking that first jump in honor of Letendre’s mom in exchange for donations from friends and family.

Since then, they’ve hosted the event in honor of a different individual every year and raised money for different cancer-related organizations. This year’s funds went to the Dear Jack Foundation, an organization founded by Letendre’s favorite singer, cancer survivor Andrew McMahon. The foundation provides support for adolescents and young adults dealing with cancer.

“Within the last few years, we’ve gone anywhere from I think the first year we did $600, to last year we did $980, and the year before that we were over a grand,” he said. “We’ve probably raised in the $4,500 range so far.”

Though the subject is serious, he said, the event is anything but. Friends and family gather to watch the occasion and help break apart the 350-pound blocks of ice they’ve started buying from a commercial ice dealer in East Providence. They typically plan for about 10 blocks, or more than 3,000 pounds of ice. The result, said Letendre, looks a lot like a field of icebergs floating in his swimming pool.

“We’ve had anywhere between 20, 25 people jumping inside there at one time,” he said.

So how long does the 36-year-old plan to continue hosting the annual event?

“Until the day my pool collapses,” he said.

Dorothy Letendre, who lost her daughter to cancer, stands with her grandson, Shane Letendre, whose mother, Darlene Letendre died of cancer.
Ava Rainville, 12, of Woonsocket, a friend of the Letendre family, plunges into the icy water to support cancer research last Saturday.
Shane Letendre, center, explains to the gathering why he is doing the Plunge for A Cure. On left is Brandon George, of Woonsocket, whose 24-year-old cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer, and on right is Sean Tessier, whose grandmother and grandfather both died of lung cancer.
Also jumping into the icy water is Sean Tessier.