SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ – Somerset County Freeholder Brian D. Levine and his daughter Ariella plunged into the 40-degree Atlantic Ocean surf Saturday to help raise money for NJ Special Olympics.
A total of 7,161 "plungers" registered for the 25th annual Polar Bear Plunge, raising a record total of $2.125 million in pledges, surpassing the 2017 total of $1.9 million, according to organizers.
It helped that the day was overcast, with a heavy mist hanging over the beach and temperatures in the 50s; many of the plungers were already wet, cold, some shivering, so it mattered little that they were about to go swimming in 40-degree termperaturs.
Dressed in a variety of costumes, hats and sunglasses, the plungers - including Levine's team, the “Toilet Plungers” - ran into the surf at 1 p.m., fulfilling their collective pledge to get soaked, to have some fun and to validate the pledges made by friends, employers, family and others.
Levine scampered into the ocean. holding his toilet plunger high in the air and made a big splash along with thousands of others..
He lost one of his water shoes in the process.
“It was worth it to brave the frigid cold,” said Levine, “for some fun and, more importantly, to support such a worthy cause like the Special Olympics. Those kids do so much and work so hard – at home and in their competition – that I can put up with a little discomfort to bring a little more comfort into their lives and their families.”
Levine is already making plans to put together a larger team for the 2019 Polar Plunge to raise more money than this year.
"One must always keep a sense of humor,” he said in response to a questions about the name of his team.