The Big Freeze

To support worthy causes, some people write a check, others do volunteer work…and still other intrepid souls jump into the Atlantic Ocean in the dead of winter.

Last year’s Polar Bear Plunge at Point Pleasant Beach saw more than 2,000 such beneficent thrill seekers raise more than $500,000 for Special Olympics New Jersey. Now the Plunge, sponsored by Law Enforcement Torch Run for SONJ, celebrates its fourteenth year in the state by moving to a more spacious location in Seaside Heights on Saturday, February 24. (In mid-January a similar but smaller-scale event was held for the first time in Wildwood.)

Plunge organizer Mathieu Nelessen, SONJ’s director of law enforcement sponsorship, hopes this year’s introduction of online pledges will bring in more money than ever. “Instead of the old-school door-to-door, it’s fun to get an e-mail from a friend saying, ‘Hey, will you give me 25 bucks—I’m jumping in the ocean in the middle of February.’ ” They’re hoping to raise $1 million.

Participants and their supporters are advised to bring plenty of warm clothing—the air temperature in 2006 was 26 degrees, the water temperature 38—and to arrive on time. Last year a thick pack of Plungers stormed the waves at the stroke of noon, but not a single person was left in the water by 12:02. And remember, Nelessen adds, “Serious Plungers will tell you: It doesn’t count unless your head goes under.”

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