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Long Beach Polar Bear Splash a go

Bitter cold won’t stop the annual Make-A-Wish event

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“Even if the Super Bowl gets changed, we are going in on Sunday,” said Long Beach Polar Bear co-founder Pete Meyers, referring to talk that extreme weather may cause the game to be rescheduled. “Rain, shine, blizzard, polar vortex; we are a go no matter what. Some players were saying it’s too cold to play in the Northeast, meanwhile we’re swimming that day.”

The 15th annual Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash — the highly anticipated event where thousands of participants charge into the icy Atlantic to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation — is scheduled to go off this Sunday afternoon. The beach will open at noon and the plunge will be at 1:30 p.m.

“Everyone has cabin fever, they just can’t wait to get out on the beach and get in the water,” Meyers said. “It’s the first beach party of 2014.”

The unofficial splash began in 1998, when Meyers and his friend Kevin McCarthy decided to take a dip in the ocean on Super Bowl morning. As people found about what they did, more and more wanted to join. They decided to turn it into a fundraising event to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in honor of friend Mike Bradley’s son, Paulie, who had died of cancer in 1997, at age 4. Paulie never got his wish, but the event has raised money to grant the wishes of hundreds of kids so far. Bradley’s wife, Patti, passed away in 2009, and the event now honors her as well.

This year will be somewhat of a return to normalcy for the event, which had a shadow cast over it by Hurricane Sandy last year. The boardwalk had been demolished, and the event was moved from Riverside to Grand Boulevard. But, people came from all over to show their support, not only for the Polar Bears and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but also for the hundreds of Long Beach families that were still reeling and recovering from the storm. About 20,000 people were on the beach last year, and $650,000 was raised for Make-A-Wish.

“Last year, after the storm, we went down to kind of make peace with the ocean,” Meyers said. “This year I think it will be a different feeling. A lot of people are back, the town’s really coming along, so this will be a celebration of where we’re at. There are still a lot of people not home, but we’ve come pretty far.”

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