It all started as a joke...and has grown to one of the most amazing community events in the region.
In 1992 Dave Taylor Smith, WVIN/WABH Radio, Bath, NY was joking around on the air with his morning show partner. They were “bantering” about everybody heading south to Myrtle Beach for the April Spring Break. Kiddingly it was said "they can go to Myrtle Beach...but we can go to Tyrtle beach...where's that”? Quickly making it up, “Oh down there by Lake Salubria”...and thus the event was born.
However, a spark now grew to flame and people began to organize. Arranging a place, a “Jump in Point” on Lake Salubria through the Makitra Family’s former Moonlit Restaurant location was a first step. Then a little arm twisting by then station Manager Bob Penrod. Dave finally agreed to jump in the lake, but on one condition. He would have listeners sponsor him and he would donate the money to youth organizations.
Then with less than a week to put it all together, the “Jump” occurred. This first year raised $1,572...16 youth organizations in the Bath area received equal shares and that was “it" ... so we thought!!
There was plenty of encouragement from radio station friends and listeners so it was decided to do it again in 1993. A ton of enthusiasm in the Central Steuben area was generated. “Let’s do something fun here while all those folks are in Myrtle Beach.” With a little more organization and station push...$5,104 was raised and it looked like "Tyrtle Beach" was here to stay. (Donation History)
As the event grew and the donations increased it became more challenging for the radio station to distribute the money. In 1996, the Steuben County Youth Board and Bureau became involved. They along with “founder” Dave Taylor Smith developed a simple application (Application) with funding criteria and the guidelines for youth organizations who wished to apply for funding. The Youth Board designed and implemented a selection and allocation process. The Youth Bureau became the administrative funding “arm”.
Tyrtle Beach continued to grow in community interest and the money each year got bigger. In 1998 a significant event occurred that changed Tyrtle Beach. Dave Taylor Smith, morning show host at WVIN, had been jumping in every year. The phenomenal donations and super excitement/interest motivated him.
About a week before the April jump, Dave was experiencing a tingling feeling in his arms when he would go for a walk or ran up stairs. That didn't seem right. Doctor visits eventually led to a stress test on the day before the Tyrtle Beach jump. After about ten minutes into the stress test, the attending doctor stopped the test and said "we've got a problem".
Quickly a call was made to Strong Memorial in Rochester that initiated a helicopter flight to Rochester. The determination was that Dave had 90% blockage of the right coronary! The doctor told, the first and only, “Tyrtle Beach Jumper”, "you won't be jumping in the lake tomorrow"!
After that close call…the status of Tyrtle Beach was up in the air. It had grown in popularity with the youth programs receiving significant funding. People were having fun with it. Dave Taylor Smith was now out of the picture with no more jumping in a cold lake in April (doctor’s orders).
A meeting of a “brain trust” was needed. After some lengthy discussion among the “brains”, it was decided to have notable community members jump in the lake every year. The first one chosen (or should we say willing) was then Steuben County Sheriff Walt Delap. He successfully brought a whole new interest to the event.
Then in 2008 we featured well known twin sisters Donna and Betty Gerych who added twice the excitement. Deputy County Administrator Jack Wheeler set a new record in 2011, and in 2012, Prattsburgh School Superintendent Joe Rumsey smashed it by raising $38,775.99.
When it all started in 1992 nobody imagined Tyrtle Beach would be so successful. After 20 years more than $457,000 has been raised for youth programs.