Written by Pat Grace Friday, 16 March 2012 00:00
The hardy, spirited gang that participates each year in the in the Polar Plunge, sponsored by the Special Olympics, got lucky this year. The morning rain cleared and the sun appeared just in time for the 8th annual “Freezin’ for a Reason” Polar Plunge, held at North Hempstead Beach Park on March 3. Approximately 500 people jumped into the icy waters to raise money for the Special Olympics—almost $85,000 at last count.
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, a stalwart participant, said it is a great way to socialize with family, friends and neighbors. And strangers too, as the event draws masochists from towns across the Island, Suffolk included.
All funds raised support Special Olympics’ programs, and promotes awareness of people living with intellectual disabilities in New York. Charissa Bames, an American Beauty Plus pageant winner, arrived from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to sing the National Anthem. Charissa, who traveled with her husband, Rob, and children, Trevor and Cameron, said she made the trip because both her children fall on the autism spectrum.
In addition to Supervisor Kaiman, plungers included State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, Fran Reid, director of North Hempstead’s Environmental Planning and Solid Waste Management Authority, Town Councilwoman Dina DiGiorgio, who attended with her family, along with Special Olympics athletes, students and members of many Long Island communities. WBAB Radio was also represented, as was the Nassau County Police Department, including their helicopter that was part of the emergency equipment on the scene.
Individuals or teams of plungers can earn prizes for raising the greatest amount of money. However, everyone who attends this wacky event, participants and spectators alike, no matter how cold the water or air, leaves with a warm glow, wearing a broad smile.