More than 15,000 people flocked to Long Beach last Sunday for the 18th annual Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash.
The icy ocean dip raises money for Make-A-Wish Metro New York, which helps fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. To date, the event, coordinated by the Long Beach Polar Bear Club — has raised about $5.2 million, organizers said.
The first splash, in 1998, was a two-man event: co-founders Kevin McCarthy and Pete Meyers jumped into the Atlantic on the morning of the Super Bowl. They turned the plunge into a charity event in honor of friend Mike Bradley’s son, Paulie, who died of cancer at age 4. Now, they say, the event gets bigger each year. More than 7,000 people ran into the water to support the cause on Sunday.
“This is Long Beach at its finest,” McCarthy said. “Everybody comes from all over to be part of our community, and we thank everybody for being here.”
Both the air and water temperature were around 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, with winds between 10 and 15 miles per hour. The ocean-bound participants were undaunted.
“It was really a freezing morning, so we thought maybe it’d be a light turnout,” City Council Vice President Anthony Eramo said. “But, as always, Long Beach came out strong, and all our friends and visitors from around Long Island are here to join in a really special day in Long Beach.”
The boardwalk was packed with people who signed waivers and bought sweatshirts, headbands and T-shirts to support the cause. Before the event ended, the supply of 2017 sweatshirts — McCarthy and Meyers went with red this year — had sold out, but leftover sweatshirts from previous years continued to sell.
“It was fantastic,” said Terry and Joel, two participants who were wearing shark hats. “It was cold, but it was a lot of fun. The water was beautiful.”
“This is what Long Beach is all about,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said. “It’s one of the best days of the year — 20,000 of your closest friends, [and] everybody’s jumping in the water for a great cause.”
Over the years, the event has funded the granting of wishes to more than 500 children. “In the first year, we raised $7,000, and we granted one wish and we thought we were so cool,” Meyers said. “Now we raise, on average, about $500,000 a year.”
One notable “Wish kid” is Connor Troy, the son of Kerry Ann Troy of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Connor’s wish, to go to Disney World and meet Kermit the Frog, was granted in 2014. “It was an amazing experience for Connor and for our family as well,” his mother said. “He was happier and healthier than he had ever been before. It really was an amazing thing for us.”
A couple of months after their Disney World trip, however, Connor died. “So that’s why we’re here today,” his mother said. “To raise money for more children to go on ‘Wish’ trips.”