SEASIDE HEIGHTS, NJ - Bright sunny skies drove the thermometer on the boardwalk to nearly 50 degrees, with a slight westward wind and one-foot waves lapping up on the ankles and calves - a perfect day for a quick dip in the teeth-chattering 41-degree chill of the Atlantic Ocean.
Thousands of good-hearted New Jerseyans, including members of the Hillsborough Police Department, PBA #205, and the Hillsborough Fire Safety IAFF 4897 opted to "chill out" for a good cause in Saturday's 27th annual Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser for the New Jersey Special Olympics.
They were all "freezin' for a reason."
Dressed in a bizarre assortment of costumes, face masks, makeup and headgear, the highly-charged crowd charged into the ocean at 1 p.m. They didn't stay long, reversing their direction to find friends with blankets and towels on the beach.
Organizers said there were close to 7,500 participants who pre-registered, with pledges from supporters exceeding $2 million. The 11 members of the Hillsborough police team, led by Patrolman Chris Giraldi, raised $1,321 in pledges; the Hillsborough fire marshals raised $220 in pledges, according to their pledge websites.
The Seaside Plunge is organized by the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey, the largest grass-roots fundraising organization for Special Olympics New Jersey.,the NJ State Policemen’s Benevolent Association and corporate and media sponsors.
In existence since 1968, Special Olympics New Jersey is part of a worldwide program of sports training and athletic competition open to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Recognized by the International Olympic Committee, Special Olympics New Jersey promotes global athlete leadership and is dedicated to the movement of empowerment and dignity. Its goal is to change attitudes within communities about people with intellectual disabilities emphasizing potential, ability and acceptance.
Special Olympics New Jersey consists of more than 25,000 athletes, 26,000 volunteers and 20,000 family members.
The mission of Special Olympic New Jersey is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities by giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.