VIDEOS: Brigantine Hosts Another Successful Polar Bear Plunge

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BRIGANTINE - What started out as a bet 17 years ago quickly turned into one of the Jersey Shore’s most popular event on New Year’s Day — the Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge.
“I like after you come out of the water, everybody’s all charged up, your adrenaline’s going, and you just look around and everyone’s yelling and screaming," said John Hand, founder of the Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge. "It’s the best part when everyone first comes out. You have a lot of the people who don’t go in, just holding the towels and everything.”
Despite the cool temperatures, thousands of people came ready in swimsuits and costumes ready to dive into the Atlantic Ocean just off Atlantic City.
“The water’s 51 this year; it’s never been that warm," said Hand to the assembled crowd. "So it’s going to feel like a bathtub, everybody!”
Thanks to donations, sponsors, and T-shirt and sweatshirt sales, the group has been able to raise money for the Fisher House Foundation for the past eight years. Last year, almost $79,000 was raised, and the organizers of the Plunge are hoping to bring in a similar amount for 2016.
“Quite simply, a Fisher House is a home away from home," said Mary Considine, chief of staff for the Fisher House Foundation. "It’s a place where families stay while they’re supporting a loved one receiving care at a military hospital or a V.A. hospital."
The Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge attracts hundreds of visitors every year, and clearly this year was no different. SNJ Today reporter Nina Baratti spoke to a few of the brave swimmers, and they said the water wasn’t too bad, but no matter the temperature, they do it for their favorite cause: to get wet for the Vets.
“Well, this is my first time doing it,"  said Carol Kissinger, of Egg Harbor Township. "I’m a Polar Bear virgin, and it was great. It was on my bucket list.”
“[The] Weather was outstanding, and it’s just a great community event that brings people together here in Brigantine,” said Vince Sera, of Brigantine.
“Fourteen years I’ve been coming here in the Polar Bear Club ... and I want to give the three rules," said Leo Cimini, of Medford. "One, don’t think about the cold. Two, let the drunks go in first for shark bait. And then, three, the water’s usually warmer than it is out here.”
Considine added: “It’s one big family on the beach, thousands of people all supporting each other, and what they’re ultimately doing is supporting the families who are staying all across the country with their loved ones in the healing process."
Starting the New Year off with a splash, while raising money for a great cause — a South Jersey tradition.

SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source based in Millville, New Jersey that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.