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Special Olympics New York

Hundreds of courageous community members plunged into the icy waters of Cedar Beach on Saturday, Nov. 19, during this year’s rendition of the Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge.

The Town of Brookhaven puts this annual event together to raise money for the Special Olympics New York organization. Proceeds from the event support training for athletes, equipment, health supplies and attire. 

Saturday’s event has raised over $128,000, according to the nonprofit’s website which proclaims that it “provides inclusive opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to discover and unleash the champion within.” 

Hundreds of plungers from across the region participated in the plunge, with many more spectating warmly from afar. Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), a perennial “plunger,” made the daring plunge again.

In an interview with Bonner, she was asked what motivates her to take the cold water dip year after year. Her response, jokingly: “We ask ourselves that every year,” she said.

Bonner, who took the plunge this year with Special Olympians Daniel and Joey, said she finds renewed joy and optimism through her involvement in the activities. 

“When you meet all those Special Olympians and interview them … it’s impossible not to get caught up in the adrenaline and momentum of supporting them and other athletes,” she said. “It’s about $400 to $500 per athlete per sport, and no family is ever charged,” adding, “These plunges … help out so many athletes and families.”

Plunging with Bonner was Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (R). Before making his plunge, the district attorney expressed some apprehensions, joking, “Unlike Jane and the rest, I am a coward so I’m trying to figure out what brought me to this stage.”

Despite his self-professed reluctance, Tierney did take the plunge. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), on the other hand, also made an appearance though avoiding the frigid waters. 

During a speech, the town supervisor described the plunge as a meaningful sacrifice in serving the greater good. “At the end of the day, you may be a little cold, but this world is going to be a lot happier for what the people are going to do plunging today,” he said.

This year’s polar plunge brought together hundreds of athletes, students and community members who suffered in unity. Bonner said an event such as this makes the community a better place.

“Regardless of political affiliation, color, economic status — there’s no barrier,” the town councilwoman said. “We’re all doing this same thing for the same cause, and it’s hard not to feel good about it at the end of the day.”

— Photos by Raymond Janis 

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On Saturday, November 20, the Town of Brookhaven and Special Olympics New York will host the 12th Annual “Polar Plunge: Freezin’ for a Reason” at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. The annual event raises funds and awareness for Special Olympics New York athletes in the Long Island region. Pictured at a special presentation during the November 4 Town Board Meeting are (left to right) Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich; Councilman Kevin LaValle; Special Olympics New York Director of Development, Casey Maloney; Councilwoman Jane Bonner; Special Olympics New York athlete, Danielle Birnbaum; Supervisor Ed Romaine; Councilman Michael Loguercio; Councilman Neil Foley; Town clerk Donna Lent and Councilman Dan Panico.

A scene from the 10th annual Brookhaven Polar Plunge. Photo by Kyle Barr

All Special Olympics New York Polar Plungers are encouraged to comply with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus (www.cdc.gov). Masks are recommended, but not required for unvaccinated plungers. To create more social distancing, there will be Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available at the event for a sanitized experience.Plungers will be able to select their smaller group plunge times which start at 11:30 am. There will be a large group plunge at 12:30 pm. Online registration for the Polar Plunge is required prior to the event and there will be no on-site registration. All registrants must raise or surpass the fundraising goal of $150 to participate and to receive the signature Polar Plunge “Freezin’ for a Reason” sweatshirt. For more information, social distancing guidelines or to register online please visit www.polarplungeny.org\brookhaven. Donations are also accepted, and all funds raised help to support the cost for athletes to participate in training and competitions.

Supervisor Ed Romaine said, “The Polar Plunge is a great opportunity for the community to make a difference in the lives of the Special Olympics athletes. I thank all the volunteers, Town employees, police, fire and ambulance staff who work so hard to support the Special Olympics athletes every year.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner said, “We are back on track to have a successful event in 2021 and I look forward to making my 12th consecutive plunge for the Special Olympics. As always, I have a great team of people to plunge with and I encourage everyone to join us and support these wonderful athletes.”

About Special Olympics New York
Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 68,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with more than 170 schools statewide to offer Unified Sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers and are never charged to participate. It costs $400 to support training and competition for one athlete for one sports season.

For additional information about Special Olympics New York, to learn more about getting involved, or to make a donation, visit www.specialolympicsNY.org.

Long Islanders flocked to Mount Sinai’s Cedar Beach Nov. 18 to take a dip into freezing
water with purpose.

The 8th annual Polar Plunge raises money for Special Olympics New York athletes as plungers take a dip or slow crawl into the chilly waters of the Long Island Sound. Special Olympics New York has 71,889 athletes training and competing year-round in 22 Olympics-style sports. Athletes and their families or caregivers are never charged to participate.

It costs $400 to support training and competition for one athlete for one sports season. This year’s Town of Brookhaven event has raised more than $110,000. Team Extraordinary has accumulated the most to date, with funds totaling almost $11,000.