You still with me? Good. The Polar Bear Plunges are fundraising events that benefit Special Olympics of New Jersey. This year was the 20th anniversary of the plunge. Historically the plunge is the largest single day fundraising effort for the Special Olympics of New Jersey. Generally the plunge is held in Seaside. Due to the devastation on the barrier island, the plunge was held a little further north, in Long Branch.
I wasn’t nervous about the plunge this year, so I was no longer a plunge virgin, as it were. It was cold and rainy outside, so I left the family at home and made the half hour drive to Long Branch. I didn’t rush out to be there as soon as registration opened because that would have left me with three to four hours to kill before the plunge started. So I got there around 10 am. I found a parking spot tucked away near some condos. It was a couple of blocks away from the plunge site but still closer then the spots where most traffic was being directed. Registration was quick as there wasn’t really a crowd at that point. It was early and noone was on the beach yet. Some people were seeking cover in a few of the shops were open, while others just came later as I did. I grabbed myself a hot chocolate and went back to my car to stay warm.
Plungers were supposed to be on the beach at 12:30 so I headed up to the boardwalk a little before noon. A little before 12:30 we all headed down to the beach.
Once on the beach most of us sought shelter under the boardwalk. While the boards didn’t provide solid cover, it was better then no cover at all. I met a group of four people that were plunging for their first time. For the most part, everyone stayed dressed and tried to keep warm.
It was cold, about 40 degrees, It was raining, windy and cold. The temp of the water was 37, and the air was almost the same.
At about 12:50 most of us started taking our layers of clothing off. Some people wear bathing suits. Some people wear shorts. And there are even some people wear costumes. I went with a tshirt over a bathing suit.
A few minutes before 1 pm we all lined up not far from the water’s edge. At 1 pm the plunge began. It’s like controlled mayhem. Everyone’s running into the water, and then back out. You almost forget about the cold. Until your foot touches the water, that is. The water is so cold! But, once your foot is in it’s all downhill. Some choose to turn right back around after just getting their feet wet, others choose to go in further. I do go in further, just because I feel like I should. The whole plunge is like 1 to 2 minutes long. Once I got out of the water I was able to find my clothes quickly, unlike last year. Following the plunge, everyone’s in a hurry to dress. This year everyone was really in a hurry because not only were we cold, but it was also still raining. I made it to the car and beat most of the traffic out and headed home, where I spent some time bundled up in my favorite blanket with coffee thawing out and watching the race.
This year there were over 4,000 plungers. More than $1 Million was raised by the date of the plunge. Raising money isn’t all the plunge does. It also raises awareness and community spirit. It’s pretty incredible, to have such a big group with one goal in mind. The sense of community is amazing. I’m planning on participating once again next year.
And here’s some video footage from the Plunge.
Don’t forget that 03/21 is World Down Syndrome Day.
Also, today is Spread The Word To End The Word Day. It’s never to late to help Spread the Word to End the Word. I’ll be posting about that later today.