Sunday, February 18, 2018

Freezing for a Reason

November 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Would you jump into freezing water for a few seconds? Before you decide, what if you were fundraising for Special Olympics athletes, children with diabetes, or helping to grant sick children’s wishes?

Many Long Islanders who would otherwise avoid the beach in the cold weather flock to the  water for a polar bear plunge fundraiser (the term Polar Plunge is a registered trademark of the Special Olympics, but other groups seem to be adopting it as well). Plunges are held all over the country to raise funds; participants often form teams and head into the icy water together to support a charity or organization. Those on the beach cheer, it’s a great photo op, and for many months afterwards it’s a story of daring to share with others.

Grace Calabro, a five-time plunger for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, says, “I think it is an exciting and thrilling experience. I love the idea of jumping in the ocean while there is snow on the beach.” She participates with other polar bears on the Sunday of the NFL’s big game, and is thrilled to raise money for the organization.  “Every year for the polar bear plunge I try to raise as much money as I can. One year about three four years ago I got all of my friends and family to sponsor me and I made almost $700.00!”

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The Town of Brookhaven kicks off the polar season early, holding its Polar Plunge fundraiser for Special Olympics at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai on November 22. In 2015, there will be a plunge into the waters of Long Beach in Nissequogue on January 18 to raise money for the Children’s Diabetes Foundation. The Long Beach Polar Bears Club’s icy Make-a-Wish fundraiser is February 1, and March features two more Special Olympics Polar Plunges: March 7 at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington and March 21 at Tobay Beach in Massapequa.

If you do participate in a wintry swimming fundraiser, bundling up post-plunge is vital. Some groups provide sweatshirts to top fundraisers, but you’ll need to bring lots more layers to pile on your body along with coverings for your head, hands, and feet. Have all your clothes and accessories waiting for you on a blanket at the beach; though the frigid swim is over in moments, you need to dress quickly to remove numbness from your extremities and warm up your core.

Why would you want to get that cold, even for mere minutes? Sam Lotito, who has participated with her sister Taylor in the Long Beach fundraiser, describes how the experience transforms a bitter day. “When the day of the big event comes everyone is ecstatic, music is blasting, and everyone is together with their friends and families, having a great time for one main purpose. The fact that everyone comes together to help make a difference is a huge aspect — this should show people that when we come together as one we can accomplish anything.”

Sure, it’s far from typical beach weather, but Lotito adds, “It gives you a great feeling to know that by doing something so simple as jumping into the cold ocean you can make a difference in children’s lives. The feeling that you get when you jump into the water makes you feel alive; it’s refreshing but it almost takes your breath away, which can make you realize for a split second how these children can be feeling sometimes.”

freezing 3Calabro echoes Lotito’s feelings, saying, “I was very excited when I found out how many people have good hearts and like donating for good causes. I love this charity and I will continue to do the polar bear plunge every year and try to raise as much money as I possibly can!”

The immense satisfaction the shivering swimmers feel can’t be measured by other standards.  Lotito acknowledges this, explaining, “Some people think that we are crazy for coming back every year and participating in this; we feel that this is something so simple to do that can make such a big difference, so why not? This experience honestly makes you appreciate everything so much more and makes you appreciate every aspect life has to offer.”

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By Melissa McMahon

Watch a Brookhaven Polar Plunge 

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