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Freezin for a Reason Seaside Heights, NJ Polar Bear Plunge 2020 Raises Over $2M

Freezin for a Reason Seaside Heights, NJ Polar Bear Plunge 2020 Raises Over $2M

A group of land sharks pose for a photo prior to the Plunge. Photo by Brian Hester

On one Saturday in the middle of each winter the normally desolate quite beach town of Seaside Heights, NJ, yes That Seaside Heights, home to MTV’s infamous “Jersey Shore” reality tv show, swells to near record capacity for the annual Polar Bear Plunge held to raise funds for Special Olympics NJ. This event, the actual “Plunge” portion only lasts for a short 5 minutes for most and only up to 20 minutes for your die-hard icy water bath fanatics. The overall event however lasts all weekend and is a spectacle not to missed. Many of the folks that take the dip into the icy Atlantic, dress in costumes, arrive early and stay late. It’s a party that could rival Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

A large group of college students from Stevens Institute in Hoboken, NJ, many in festive costume, pose prior to the Plunge. Photo by Brian Hester

This year’s event raised over $2,000,000 to benefit over 26,000 athletes across state in various programs. Unseasonably warm temps and sunny skies helped boost the turn out to over 8,000 plungers this year.

Massive crowds all along the Boardwalk and a ateady stream of pedestrian traffice, all Plungers at the access point shown, heading down to the water. Photo by Brian Hester
A giant land shark eyes up a tasty bag full of jello shots post plunge. Photo by Brian Hester
A woman clad in purple with mmatching gloves and sun glasses feeds her shark post plunge. Photo by Brian Hester

An event of this scope and nature requires hundreds possible close to a thousand volunteers and first responders to be on hand to ensure Plungers return safely to the shore and dry land after taking a quick dip. Dive teams from various agencies from around the state participated. Many of these divers spend about an hour standing in the water before, during, and post plunge to ensure safety.

Dive team members pose post plunge. An NJ State Police boat can be seen on the background. Photo by Brian Hester
Dive team memebers stand at the ready as an NJ State Police helicopter hoovers overhead. Photo by Brian Hester

In addition to the teams in the water ariel support was provided by NJ State Troopers from a helicopter. Drones were also used to secure the event and observe plungers in the Atlantic. As with many Special Olympics events many supporters and participants are full time law enforcement personal. Many of those participate as teams.

A county Sheriff on horse back makes his way along the dunes towards the Boardwalk. Photo by Brian Hester
Costumed plungers make their may to the water. Photo by Brian Hester
A large group of friends from Wayne, NJ arrived in costumes to take the plunge. Note the NJ State Police helicopter hovering above. Photo by Brian Hester
A girafe and a unicorn smile for a quick photos as they stoll along the Broadwalk. Photo by Brian Hester

Some groups and teams dressed in themed costumes. Many teams came from businesses as owners and managers find the event to be an incredible team building exercise between the fund raising and the comradery. The Where’s Waldo Team stood out in their red and white stripes.

Members of the Where’s Waldo team pose with the SONJ Mascot. Photo by Brian Hester
Lucky Leprechuns sporting the green along the Broadwalk. Photo by Brian Hester
Santa and Mrs. Clause wave from the crowd. Photo by Brian Hester
Two Cowfolks riding their inflatable unicorns along the Broadwalk, add to the party atmostpher. Photo by Brian Hester

A Mrs. Clause and her penguine friend wave a PBA flag prior to the plunge. Photo by Brian Hester

There was plenty of sunshine to go around including this group pictured above. Photo by Brian Hester
This large team marched along the Broadwalk carrying signs including the iconic image of former NJ Governor Chirs Christie as captured by NJ Advanced Media Andrew Mills a few summers back. Photo by Brian Hester

And now to the actual plunge. Hectic. Exciting. Enjoyable. Did I mention the air temp was in the upper 50’s? Makes recovery time post plunge much more comfortable. I have done this plunge when the temps hovered in the low teens and snow was on the beach. Upper 50’s is so much nicer.

Team Where’s Waldo ready to plunge. Photo by Brian Hester
The mad dash to the icy Atlantic. Photo by Brian Hester
A happy plungers exits the Atlanic. Photo by Brian Hester
A plunger wearing heavy eye makeup whips his long hair out of the icy waters as dive team memeber and an NJ State Police boat keep watch. Photo by Brian Hester
An NJ State Police helicopter hoovers overhead as two plungers exit the icy waters carrying a PBA flag. Photo by Brian Hester

As I mentioned above, I like to follow a story and get the full experience. I had a volunteer videographer and took the plunge myself. Look at the clip below. Feel free to donate to Special Olympics by clicking here if you feel so moved.

One last shot of Team Where’s Waldo as they pose with a few special quests post plunge. Photo by Brian Hester

As I was leaving the Boardwalk, I encountered this group of young people resting at the far end of Seaside Heights. I asked them if that had enjoyed the day. The all smiled and said that they had a great day. The father of one of these children, seen in the plaid shirt and cap photobombing this picture, informed me that this team, Ocean Beach 2 Plungers, had raised over $12,000. As Whitney Houston stated years back, “The Children are our future” Amazing work for such a young group. Kudos.

Team Ocean Beach 2 Plungers, who raised over $12,000, pose for a post plunge pic. Photo by Brian Hester

The Wawa team had almost 400 members and 300 of those took the plunge as well as volunteered on event day. This type of corporate sponsorship is fundemental to the survial of non-profits and an excellent example of community involvement and giving back to the peoples they serve. Well done Wawa.

A small numner of the almost 400 hundred Team Wawa articipants pose for a pre-plunge pic. Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester
Photo by Brian Hester

I have added a gallery below of many other team and individual photos from yesterday. Enjoy. As an added bonus for your participation in this event I have also created and posted an album that will allow viewers to download and or share low resolution images from yesterdays event, straight to your computers and social media accounts. Click Here for downloading / sharing photos

Out of Town

Brian Hester is a New York City based freelance photographer covering any nature of event including but not limited to; breaking news, sports, entertainment, fashion, nature and whatever may catch his wandering eye. Since 2011 Brian, has been covering community events and high school sports for North Jersey Media Group and their successor Gannett USA Today. His clients include Rutgers University and Monmouth Athletics. ​You can see more of his work at www.brianbehindthelens.com

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