Brian Hester Reporting
Seaside Heights, NJ
Saturday February 22, 2020
On one Saturday in the middle of each winter the normally desolate quite beach town of Seaside Heights, NJ, yes That Seaside Heights, home to MTV's infamous "Jersey Shore" reality tv show, swells to near record capacity for the annual Polar Bear Plunge held to raise funds for Special Olympics NJ. This event, the actual "Plunge" portion only lasts for a short 5 minutes for most and only up to 20 minutes for your die-hard icy water bath fanatics. The overall event however lasts all weekend and is a spectacle not to missed. Many of the folks that take the dip into the icy Atlantic, dress in costumes, arrive early and stay late. It's a party that could rival Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
This year’s event raised over $2,000,000 to benefit over 26,000 athletes across state in various programs. Unseasonably warm temps and sunny skies helped boost the turn out to over 8,000 plungers this year.
An event of this scope and nature requires hundreds possible close to a thousand volunteers and first responders to be on hand to ensure Plungers return safely to the shore and dry land after taking a quick dip. Dive teams from various agencies from around the state participated. Many of these divers spend about an hour standing in the water before, during, and post plunge to ensure safety.
In addition to the teams in the water ariel support was provided by NJ State Troopers from a helicopter. Drones were also used to secure the event and observe plungers in the Atlantic. As with many Special Olympics events many supporters and participants are full time law enforcement personal. Many of those participate as teams.
Some groups and teams dressed in themed costumes. Many teams came from businesses as owners and managers find the event to be an incredible team building exercise between the fund raising and the comradery. The Where's Waldo Team stood out in their red and white stripes.
And now to the actual plunge. Hectic. Exciting. Enjoyable. Did I mention the air temp was in the upper 50's? Makes recovery time post plunge much more comfortable. I have done this plunge when the temps hovered in the low teens and snow was on the beach. Upper 50's is so much nicer.
As I mentioned above, I like to follow a story and get the full experience. I had a volunteer videographer and took the plunge myself. Look at the clip below. Feel free to donate to Special Olympics by clicking here if you feel so moved.
As I was leaving the Boardwalk, I encountered this group of young people resting at the far end of Seaside Heights. I asked them if that had enjoyed the day. The all smiled and said that they had a great day. The father of one of these children, seen in the plaid shirt and cap photobombing this picture, informed me that this team, Ocean Beach 2 Plungers, had raised over $12,000. As Whitney Houston stated years back, "The Children are our future" Amazing work for such a young group. Kudos.
The Wawa team had almost 400 members and 300 of those took the plunge as well as volunteered on event day. This type of corporate sponsorship is fundemental to the survial of non-profits and an excellent example of community involvement and giving back to the peoples they serve. Well done Wawa.
I have added a gallery below of many other team and individual photos from yesterday. Enjoy. As an added bonus for your participation in this event I have also created and posted an album that will allow viewers to download and or share low resolution images from yesterdays event, straight to your computers and social media accounts. Click Here for downloading / sharing photos