By Bria Ellis and Korinne Utting
It was 32 degrees and windy. But at 11:30 in the morning, over 400 people lined the shore at Tobay Beach. One woman wore a swimsuit with a crown of flowers, while one man wore a Deadpool costume. They all waited with anticipation to run into the freezing water.
The Town of Oyster Bay hosted its fourth annual Polar Plunge on Saturday, Mar. 18 to benefit Special Olympics New York. It costs $400 to sponsor one Special Olympics athlete for an entire season and athletes compete without any cost to themselves. Special Olympics New York offers training and year-round competitions for athletes with disabilities. Oyster Bay’s plunge raised $65,000 for the sponsorship of 162 athletes.
Polar Plunges are events held during the winter months where participants run into bodies of water despite frigid temperatures, usually to raise money for charitable organizations.
“The whole event was an amazing experience,” Tracie Kulich-McCarty, a first time participant at the plunge, said. “Lining up and moving closer, the adrenaline rise as you run down to the water and come out. It was a great experience for a great cause.”
Many participants return to plunge the following year. “My son saw a flyer in school and got really excited when he found out he could help raise money for the Special Olympics,” Jamielynn Fuentes said. This was her son’s second year participating. He and his friends raised over $4000. “He had such a great time last year. Even though it was fun jumping in the water, I really think he enjoyed raising the money even more.”
“Events like the Polar Plunge bring the community together,” Rose Walker, Nassau County Legislator, said. “It gives members of our community the opportunity to partner with sponsors and organizations from other areas as well, all working together toward a common goal. It warms my heart to see what we can accomplish when we all come together for such a wonderful cause.”
Brands and businesses showed up to sponsor the event, such as Nesquik, Chick-fil-A, and BLI Radio. “One of our most important core values is making a positive impact on our communities and the people in them,” Lashawna, a representative from Chick-Fil-A headquarters, said. “Locally funded sponsorships are something that occurs with each individual owner operator of Chick-fil-A.”
The Polar Plunge gives participants an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones. “It breaks down stereotypes of what we can and cannot overcome,” Joseph Saladino, Town Supervisor of Oyster Bay, said. “It’s fun and allows people to build camaraderie while strengthening our power to overcome fear.”
The Oyster Bay Polar Plunge was one of three recent polar plunge events. North Hempstead hosted their 13th annual Polar Plunge Mar. 4 and raised $60,000. Rockaway Park will host a Polar Plunge on Mar. 25 at 10:00 a.m. at Jacob Riis Park.