The icebox temperature of the coastal waters of Long Island Sound keep most away from any bathing activities, but on Nov. 23 the Suffolk County police and other volunteers could barely contain the crowd who rushed in wave after wave to bathe themselves in the frigid Sound off Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.
Close to 750 participants joined in the 10th annual Town of Brookhaven Polar Plunge, raising a projected $150,000 for the Special Olympics. Diane Colonna, the regional vice president of development for Special Olympics New York, said it costs about $400 to provide training and to sponsor one athlete per season, though many train and compete over multiple seasons.
“Most people are not really into jumping into freezing cold waters, but people are doing it — they’re doing it for our athletes,” Colonna said. “What’s really cool is our athletes are doing it as well, and it’s something they can do together.”
She added that the number of participants has been relatively steady over the past several years and is one of the biggest fundraising events for the Special Olympics in New York.
“Our athletes live to the extreme every day in showing they are part of things and want to be included,” she said.
Plungers participated alone or in teams, with some raising several thousand dollars. Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) along with the team Frozen Eagles have raised $2,555 so far. The Port Jefferson High School Varsity Club announced it had 70 students intending to participate in this year’s event, which is about 25 percent of the total population of grades 9 through 12. By the end, the group raised over $11,000, according to club co-adviser Deirdre Filippi, and that donation will help to sponsor approximately 27 athletes.
“We are incredibly proud of our student athletes and their efforts,” Filippi said. “It truly was a rewarding experience for all.”