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Annual UCPN Polar Bear Plunge Brings in a Swell Crowd

Theodore Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay was a magnet for people who came to see friends and family take part in the annual UCPN Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday, March 7. The event is a benefit for the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County.

 

The parking lots were filled and police were busy directing traffic. People were gathered along a section of the beach where ropes set off a corridor where the swimmers would access the water.

At 2 p.m. when the swimmers took off the crowd stood along the gauntlet - to see the action. One of the swimmers, Al Margiotta of Plainview’s advice was, “Go in fast and then get out.” That was exactly what happened.

Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce director Alex Gallego, was one of the first swimmers in and out of the water. He was in the swim for the fourth time. “Why not; it’s a lot of fun for a good cause. It is a great thing to help to support the chamber which was helping support UCPN (with a $1,000 donation),” he said.

Al Margiotta was there with his fellow NTFC members: the Now That’s Freakin’ Cold club. They wore white bathing caps with their distinctive club initials in black. They have been training together for the sport for a few years. In this swim from NTFC this year were Tom Connolly of Hicksville; Rob Dircks of Melville, Al Margiotta of Plainview and Paul Greenfield of Jericho.

Heather Schmidt of Old Westbury was in the swim, too. Coming out, the young lady said, “It’s not that cold. It was really fun and I didn’t feel it.” Heather was there with her mother Valerie who said, “Heather’s brother is autistic and she wakes up in the morning saying - how can she help others. She’s a cool chick!”

This year East Norwich resident Kevin Brady and his son Michael, 7, took the plunge. They have lived locally for 13 years. They raised $103 for ucpn. “It was for a very good cause,” said mom Lauren Brady – with her son Bryan by her side.

Out enjoying the day at Roosevelt Beach were Andrew Cupolo and his mother Audrey of East Norwich. “I’ve been seeing boys walking around in their bathing suits like it’s summer time,” said Andrew Cupolo.

“It must be nice – if you’re into it,” said Audrey Cupolo.

Someone walking by was talking to a friend about the polar plunge and said, “In Long Beach it took five minutes to get all the people into the water at their polar bear event.”

Atlantic Steamer Fire Department ex-chief Frank Ozol, a member of the Oyster Bay Polar Bear Plunge committee as well as a ucpn board member, said, “There were about 4,000 to 5,000 people at the Long Beach swim, it’s a much larger beach.

“Here, people stayed in the water for about 10 minutes. Some of them are professional polar bears. They do the swim at Coney Island and Long Beach and anywhere else they can. They go out every Sunday morning from November to April and find a different beach and stay in the water 15 or 20 minutes, they told me.

“My nephew, who is over 30, came with friends for the first time and stayed in the water longer than most people.

“There was a Bay Constable boat and an Atlantic Steamer boat out there to protect the swimmers. There were two Bay Constables in wet suits and two Atlantic Steamer dive team guys.

“The East Norwich Juniors were assisting with handing out hot dogs. Jerry Presta brought his juniors down. I had called and asked if he wanted to participate.

“There were also Nassau County Police Explorers helping with crowd control. They are an extension of the Boy Scouts,”

Mr. Ozol said he got involved with the Polar Bear Plunge after “standing by” with the Atlantic Steamer Fire Department the first time it was held. “I said, ‘This is cool, and I’m going to go in the swim the next year.’ I was chief then, and a lot of the guys went in, too. This year it was a terrific event. We had more people than we ever had. Partly that was because of the great weather, but the event keeps on growing.

“More people went into the water this year. My nephew brought about six or seven people with him that hadn’t been here before. There were sorority girls from Hofstra and C.W. Post who brought along friends and bought raffle tickets. We don’t know how much we raised but I’m sure more than last year. It grows every year and that’s a good thing,” he said.

One of those people who braved it out as long as they could was Sarah Feingold, who was still in the water with the last few diehards. She stayed in the water last year for 13 minutes and 15 the year before. Sara is a volunteer firefighter and polar bear aficianado. “She enjoys the extremes in temperature,” said her mom – who is her staunchest cheerleader.

Leaving the park after the event, and heading down Bay Avenue, there was a long line outside of the Bonanza Stand, waiting on line for hot dogs and Italian Ices. There is a definite commercial advantage for the hamlet to host events at TR Park and Beach.

Event Sponsors

Honorary co-Chairs John Venditto, supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg from Long Beach along with Chairman Jack Sullivan and the Polar Bear Committee worked hard to make this the best plunge ever!

The Atlantic Steamer Fire Company donated and served over 1,000 delicious hot dogs to the hungry crowd! DJ Danny Kelly was on hand to entertain the enthusiastic crowd and to keep the swimmers and fans happy; there was plenty of good conversation shared over hot soup donated by H.R. Singleton’s restaurant; hot coffee and tea donated by Dunkin’ Donuts, hot chocolate donated by Lackmann Culinary Services; and cookies donated by Silver Lake Cookie Company! KJOY’s Street Team and Dave & Buster’s Street Team were on hand to entertain the crowd also!

The Polar Bear Plunge is dedicated to the memory of Lenny Ferraro – event co-chair. Mr. Ferraro was instrumental in establishing the ucpn Polar Bear Plunge in 2005 and has provided dedicated and tireless service to ucpn for over 25 years as a board member and through enthusiastic work on numerous vital agency committees. Lenny passed away on December 1, 2008. This Polar Bear Plunge and all to follow are now dedicated in his honor and memory.

Filling out the day at the beach, there were prizes as well. For more information call UCP at 378-2000, ext. 648 or www.ucpn.org.