The organizers of the annual Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge announced Friday that the event would be canceled due to lingering concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Special Olympics New Jersey, in conjunction with its sponsors, partners, and local and state authorities, has made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person portion of this year’s Polar Bear Plunges in Wildwood and Seaside Heights, switching both events to an all virtual platform,” the organization said in a statement.
The event, normally held in February, draws tens of thousands of participants and onlookers to Seaside Heights and is usually an informal start to a season that includes events for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. It has been cited as a major winter season boon to boardwalk businesses and motels.
For its part, Special Olympics New Jersey has raised more than $2 million for its efforts at past plunge events in Seaside Heights alone. Organizers this year are urging would-be participants to sign up for a virtual plunge.
“Instead of braving the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean this year, thousands of plungers will take up water balloons, super soakers, garden hoses, pools, and any other creative means necessary to take the Virtual Polar Bear Plunge, all to raise funds and awareness for over 26,000 Special Olympics New Jersey athletes,” the statement said.
Here’s how “virtual plunging will work,” according to organizers:
- When to plunge: Anytime! Plunger’s choice: Register, raise the minimum donation and/or additional funds to reach incentive levels, then plunge. The deadline to be eligible for Seaside plunge incentives is April 17.
- How to plunge: Anywhere, any way. Whether it’s a bucket of ice water, super soakers, water balloons, ice bath, kiddie/swimming pool, or any other means, participants are invited to get creative and “plunge their own way,” then share the experience!
- Why plunge: Since the middle of March 2020, over 26,000 Special Olympics New Jersey athletes have been isolated, unable to fully participate in their usual sports, social, and community events. Research shows individuals with intellectual disabilities are at higher risk for COVID-19 and lack equitable access to proper healthcare. These athletes need support now, more than ever, to get back to the physical activity, social interactions, and inclusive opportunities that reduce isolation and depression, while increase overall health and wellness.