Nearly 6,000 beach-goers gathered on the coast of the Jersey shore on February 25, 2012 to participate in the “Polar Bear Plunge.” By jumping through treacherous winter waves and bearing the freezing, bone-chilling winds in Seaside Heights, avid supporters of the Special Olympics of New Jersey raised well over 1.4 million dollars for the non-profit organization, according to their official website, www.sonj.org.
Seaside Heights was the fourth plunge for second-year Mercer student Clint Coleman, a Hotel Restaurant and Institutional Management major. “It’s really not as bad as it sounds,” says Coleman. “You’re only in the water [for] a few seconds, and it’s a total adrenaline rush. It’s so great.”
Coleman explains that his good family friend Annemarie, who participates and is very involved in the Special Olympics, is a huge part of his inspiration. His other compelling reason to jump into the freezing ocean simply comes, he says, from “the Special Olympics in general.”
The Special Olympics of New Jersey provides year-round sports training and Olympic-type competition in 24 sports for more than 22,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Thanks to numerous fundraisers, all training and events are offered completely free of charge.
“I definitely would recommend that other students and staff take the plunge,” explains Coleman. “It is just an awesome experience for a great cause.”
Second-year Mercer student and Liberal Arts major Dan Povio agrees, “The [Polar Bear Plunge helps] to fund the events and training for the athletes, so it’s all for a really great cause.”
Povio, who has participated on his brother, Nick Povio’s team for the last two years, took the “plunge” in Wildwood this past January.
“Our team was sponsored by Beach Haus Beer [a local brewery]. The atmosphere at the Polar Bear Plunge is fantastic. Police Departments and Fire Companies from around the state always participate and raise tons for the plunge.”
Both of the plunges are sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a volunteer effort by the Law Enforcement community of New Jersey to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics New Jersey. The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey raised more than $2.7 million in 2011.
According to Povio, the Polar Bear Plunge is distinct from other traditional fundraisers in “one quintessential” way: “[It] ends with jumping in the freezing cold Atlantic in the middle of winter!”
“Anyone who doesn’t mind a few moments of shocking cold and general discomfort should absolutely try to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge,” claims Povio. “It’s a really great event supporting an organization that puts the funds you raise to great use.”