NUTLEY, NJ - Gencarelli Brothers Pizzeria in Nutley, Newark and Toms River have joined forces and created Team “Gencarelli's pizzeria” to raise funds for the 2017 Polar Bear Plunge Freezin’ for a Reason on Feb. 25 at Seaside Heights to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey.

The team is sponsored by owners Henry Pagliuca and his wife, Tina Gencarelli-Pagliuca of Bloomfield (Nutley location), Rosemarie Brush of Nutley (Toms River location) and Sal Gencarelli of Newark (Newark location).

Along with the pizzeria owners, members include Linda Buset of Nutley, Shannon Lazare, Heather Lazare, along with the Pagliuca’s daughter, Gianna, 11. This will be the first time for Buset, Henry and Gianna to be plunging into the frigid water.

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The veterans of the team really enjoyed the event in the past. “I did it going back years ago and we had so much fun,” said Brush.

“I did it in 2013, it was quite an experience. I will be a little more prepared this year, keep the feet warm by wearing UGG boots until I jump in the water, the sand kills you; it’s like ice blocks,” Tina explained.

The temperature for February in Seaside averages about 35 degrees and the water should be in the mid-30s as well.

“It’s scary when they blow that whistle and everyone jumps in, but some people stay in and swim some,” Tina said.

The team has created shirts to raise money for the event. There are two types available to support their efforts. One is “Too Chicken to Plunge” for those not participating but want to support the cause. The logo has a chicken holding a pizza. The other logo sports a polar bear wearing a shirt with the Italian flag holding what else but a pizza with the event’s motto “Freezing for a Reason,” for those jumping in the Atlantic Ocean on the 25th. According to Brush the team sold 25 shirts already.

When asked why participate in the mid-winter event this is what they had to say.

“Truthfully I always donated for tricky trays and other fundraisers but never did the plunge. It’s a great cause, more than just a monetary donation, I’m looking forward to it,” Henry said. “This year my daughter is old enough and wanted to participate as well,” he added.

“The Special Olympics is dear to me. I helped out with the SYA in Nutley and the special young adults mean a lot to me,” said Brush.

“The Special Olympics is very dear and personal to me, I had a friend who competed when I was very young.  At that time my friend’s parents were very supportive of Eunice Kennedy Shriver [Special Olympics founder]. She believed that if people with intellectual disabilities were given the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else, they could accomplish more than anyone ever thought possible,” Tina said.

“I was extremely privileged to attend the first International Special Olympics in 1968. It was held in Chicago.  It was just incredible. From that point on, I have been a supporter and contributor.  When I was asked to do the Plunge into the ocean, I knew I would be ‘Freezing for a great reason,’ so it means a lot to me,” she continued.

So far team members have collaborated in raising over $800 according to their website. If you would like to help the team raise money for the Special Olympics and donate or join them in embarking in the plunge visit classy.org and type in “Gencarelli's pizzeria” in the search engine under fundraising teams.