February in New Jersey usually consists of snow, Snuggies, and staying indoors with a hot cup of cocoa. However, one event breaks this stereotype every February and brings thousands of people outside – to the beach. On Saturday, Feb. 25, Seton Hall students, among thousands of other New Jersey residents and visitors, participated in the 24th Annual Polar Bear Plunge at 1 p.m., in Seaside Heights, NJ.
The Polar Plunge raises money and support for The Special Olympics, an organization that provides funds to more than 25,000 Special Olympics athletes year round. Last year, 6,000 people jumped into the ocean and $1.7 million was raised towards the cause. This year, more than 6,000 people plunged and exceeded the goal, raising over $1.8 million. The Plunge is sponsored by The New Jersey State P.B.A. and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Frank Aresta, a Port Authority police officer, expressed the overwhelming amount of support that has grown over the years.
“With all these fundraisers, that means all New Jersey Special Olympics athletes don’t pay for their sport or their uniforms,” he said.
In 2016, more than $3 million was raised towards training, uniforms, competitions, health screenings, and various leadership opportunities for New Jersey athletes.
The SHU Rugby team and Alpha Phi Omega both took part in the event on Saturday, which 40,000 people attended. Devante Rodriguez, a member of the Rugby team, took the plunge for a second time this year.
“When we heard about it last year, I didn’t think it’s as big as it actually is. When you get there it’s a good mile and a half of the beach covered with people who come out and support and donate to this event,” Rodriguez said.
He said it’s “insane” to think about how many people gather on the beach in February. Rodriguez said that nobody takes the plunge mindlessly.
“I think everyone knows that there’s a purpose behind it and a greater meaning than just getting cold for a few seconds,” he said.
The Rugby team raised $535.
Alpha Phi Omega had a team of about 48 plunge on Saturday, most of them Seton Hall brothers, but also members from other chapters in New Jersey. Overall, the team raised $6,097. Anna Fagan said that Alpha Phi Omega participates every year and this event is a perfect way to bond with each other, while also serving the community. Fagan said the event left her feeling excited.
“There were people raising upwards of $15,000 for this event, which really shows you the goodness that people have in their hearts for really good causes,” Fagan said.
Erika Szumel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.