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Brrrrr . . . Polar Bear Plunge makes its return

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The Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash, an annual event that raises money for Make-A-Wish Metro New York, is set to make its long-awaited return on Sunday, Feb. 2.

The event is organized by the Long Beach Polar Bears club, which has raised more than $7 million to help fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, Pete Meyers, co-founder of the Long Beach Polar Bear, said.

He and Kevin McCarthy started plunging into the Atlantic Ocean in 1998 on Superbowl Sunday. In 2000, they turned it into a charity event to raise money for the Make-a-wish Foundation in honor of their friend Mike Bradley’s son, Paulie, who died of cancer at age 4 in 1997. Paulie’s wish, Meyers said, would have been to go to Puerto Rico and play on the beach.

Meyers said that they raise an average of about $500,000 a year, but added that he thinks they’ll surpass that this year. Much of the funds collected come from the sale of the popular Polar Bear apparel, which ranges from hoodies, half-zip sweaters, sweatpants, hats, towels among other items. This year’s color scheme is a grayish blue, which has proved to be popular in the community.

The polar bears began selling the merchandise at Irish Day in October and have continued selling it at E. Van Creations, on 54 S. Long Beach Road in Rockville Centre. Clothing items can also be purchased at www.longbeachpolarbears.org. Meyers said that the polar bears have sold more apparel this year than any other year and urged the community to purchase merchandise before it sells out.

The forecast for this Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, is partly sunny with a high near 43 degrees. Meyers said that although it’s usually cold in February, “Paulie always provides us with good weather.”

More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the event, organizers said, with about 7,000 plunging into the water and another 13,000 bystanders watching from the beach and boardwalk. The festivities will start at 10 a.m. as the polar bears will start selling merchandise and will have plungers signing waivers before the dip. People are expected to gather near Riverside Boulevard beach at 12:30 p.m. to plunge at 1:30 p.m. Overall, the entire event is expected to attract thousands of people, Meyers said.

Meyers added that they will have about 50 volunteer lifeguards and many city workers, who he said do a great job in helping with the event.

Organizers recommended carpooling or using public transportation like the Long Island Rail Road because the event is one of the busiest traffic days of the year in Long Beach, making parking difficult. The LIRR lot and Foundation Block will be available for parking, and shuttles will transport people to and from the West End, Meyers said. He suggested entering the beach on Long Beach or Edwards boulevards. For more information, visit www.longbeachpolarbears.org or www.longbeachny.gov.

“It’s amazing to watch the energy, joy and enthusiasm of the Long Beach Polar Bears and the Long Beach community in their support of wish kids,” said Phil Lussier, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Metro New York and Western New York, in a news release. “Wishes have proven physical and emotional benefits that can lead to better health outcomes for kids with critical illnesses. The commitment and generosity of this community are making a life-changing difference for these children. We cannot thank them enough.”