With 7,500 people taking part in the 30th annual Polar Bear Plunge, there were gems everywhere in Seaside Heights on Feb. 25.
One of the foremost, of course, was the annual presentation the NJSPBA makes of a $25,000 donation to Special Olympics New Jersey. PBA President Pat Colligan, Executive Vice President Pete Andreyev and Meg Hammond, the PBA’s Special Olympics liaison, presented the check on the “Big Joe Henry” show prior to the start of the biggest plunge ever.
Being that the 30th is the pearl anniversary, this year’s Polar Bear Plunge special section spotlights the pearls of PBA members taking the plunge. Among the hundreds of members participating on one of the coldest plunge days ever were several who have been doing it since the Polar Bear Plunge began in 1993, or started shortly thereafter.
In addition to these “long-timers,” many members decided to take their initial plunge in 2023. So we celebrate the 30th anniversary with stories about the “long-timers” and the “first-timers.” Read all about these members and the reasons they were freezin’.
Stories by Mitchell Krugel, Esther Gonzales, Dan Campana and Brittany Krugel
Photos by Jim Connolly
Spotlighting the long-time plungers
‘Electricity in the air’
Twelve years ago, Elizabeth Local 4 member Sean Campbell took his first Polar Bear Plunge. Ever since then, he hasn’t been able to quit.
“[That first one] was cold,” Campbell recalled. “It was shocking, and it was something like I’d never experienced before.”
For Campbell, it’s the atmosphere and the sense of togetherness that make him want to continue to dip his body into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
“Honestly, it’s just a matter of getting the guys together, coming down here, having a good time,” he added. “I mean, you kind of come down here and let what happens happen, and it’s just fun.”
After 12 years, the feeling right before you plunge hasn’t changed. Campbell describes it as “a big daze.”
But it’s that level of intensity that pushes him and so many others to do the deed for the Special Olympics.
“All this money, the amount of people out here on the beach raising all this money,” he said. “It’s these great guys and girls and Special Olympics, and it’s something. It’s like an electricity in the air.”
‘Shows your brotherhood’
Raritan Local 82 Delegate Andy Ragati has been a part of the Polar Bear Plunge for 16 years. Ever since his first time, he’s been hooked.
But even the most excited members can’t prepare for how cold those Atlantic waters are. So Ragati describes his first time in just four words:
“It was very cold,” he declared.
But obviously not too cold for Ragati to keep coming back year after year. What really keeps him and other members of Local 82 coming back is a chance to bond
“This shows your brotherhood, and how much we love each other and how much we enjoy supporting something,” Ragati added
It’s that kind of bond that makes it just a little easier to brave those waters in support of Special Olympics athletes.
“You can go out there, have a good time. Show support. It’s going to be cold, and you’re ready for it,” he said.
With 16 years of experience, Ragati has some advice for those who may be new to plunging:
“Be ready,” he warns. “Be ready for the cold, and be ready to support a great cause.”
More than 7,000 people came out to the Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday, Feb. 25. Most of them were law enforcement, there to support the Special Olympics of New Jersey. One law enforcement officer has made this cause a family affair.
For more than 15 years, Hackensack Local 9 member Frank Scarpa from has been a part of the plunge. Now, Scarpa is involving his daughters in this special day.
“I used to have my daughters doing it every year,” he explained. “They’re 18 and 19 now. They started doing it when they were four years old.”
Scarpa hopes this event teaches his daughters the importance of giving back, and ultimately that’s what he says is his favorite part of the day.
This year, Scarpa’s daughters had to miss out on the festivities because they’re both attending college. But the bond this creates between him and his family is priceless.
“Over the years, it has become like our tradition,” Scarpa said.
‘Becoming more active with all our new members’
Hillsborough Township Local 205 President Tom Gurba was looking for ways to get members more engaged, and he found it with the Polar Bear Plunge.
“We weren’t as active, but we’ve been becoming more active with all our new members, and we try to get involved in everything that’s out there,” Gurba said, adding that this was his and the Local’s fourth year braving the cold waters for charity.
Experience has helped shape a solid strategy for Gurba and his group of 10: the Tailgating Approach.
“We prepare by getting here at 8:30 or 9 a.m., and then we tailgate — like tailgating for a concert,” said Gurba, who’s been on the job for 16 years. “We have a good time, we communicate with a bunch of the other locals around us and that gets us seasoned, ready to get in the water.”
Gurba’s team was bolstered this year by his daughter and her friend. Their excitement to get involved added to the day’s fun for him.
“I love it. It’s a good time. We have a lot of newer, younger members … we’re donating money, and it’s great,” Gurba explained. “Whether it’s the blue family or blood family, we’re here.”
‘I’m feeling it’
A seven-year veteran of the Polar Bear Plunge, Joe Castillo of the Passaic County Prosecutors Office Local 265 knows the recipe for a successful time: a little music, some propane and a good group of 10 teammates ready to hit the water together.
“Local 265 is a family, you know what I mean?” Castillo said. “Everyone’s very closeknit. We’re all on the same page. We love doing this.”
Even with several years under his proverbial belt, feeling the chilly air and thinking about the icy water still take Castillo’s breath away just a bit.
“It is going be super cold,” he acknowledged before taking the plunge — and a self-deprecating crack at himself. “I’m getting old.”
Still, what keeps Castillo coming back year after year are the camaraderie and the cause.
“We love it. It’s a great event [for] Special Olympics,” Castillo explained.
With that motivation, some huddling around the heater with his teammates and the music of fellow PBA265er DJ Carmine Boofie, Castillo psyched himself up a little more.
“This year is probably going to be the coldest for me after seven years,” he said. “I’m feeling it.”
Yet that didn’t stop him from plunging.
‘It’s a great thing to organize’
Eastern Bergen County Local 45 member Rob Loewrigkeit is still fairly new to the Polar Bear Plunge. It was only his second year plunging, but Loewrigkeit embraced the full experience.
He took the lead in inviting family members and friends to join a team of Local 45 members, some of whom had been plunging for the past nine years. And together, they raised $18,000 for Special Olympic athletes.
“We just have a fun time,” Loewrigkeit said. “It’s a great cause. It’s a great thing to organize and then have all our friends and family come out for it.”
Two of Loewrigkeit’s friends began plunging with his team the moment he became involved. And they said they’ve been having a great time ever since.
“It’s just a great, great day,” Logwrigkeit added as he was preparing to take the plunge.
As for getting though this second plunge on such a cold day, he shared a simple strategy with Local 45 members and friends:
‘It gives you a purpose’
The Polar Bear Plunge has become a tradition to pass down to rookies on the job. And if you ask West New York Local 361 members, it’s almost an unspoken rule that you have to take the plunge at least once in your career.
That’s exactly how it was for Local 361 member Marco Barrera when he was introduced to the plunge 16 years ago.
“This old timer introduced me to this,” Barrera quipped as he motioned toward West New York Deputy Chief Santiago Cabbera.“He’s an original plunger, and I am absolutely glad he introduced me to this. It’s an incredible experience, and every year, it gives you a purpose to come back.”
Cabbera, who has been plunging for almost 30 years, described the plunge as a great mentorship opportunity. Like when he passed down the mission of the plunge to Barrera, who is now Local 361’s team captain.
“The younger guys come and take over,” Cabbera explained. “And I think [Barrera] has definitely done his part on that. We’re going to now push, give it to someone else. So it’s generational as it goes.”
Even though the unofficial rule is to plunge at least once, Cabbera expressed that after experiencing the plunge, members just keep coming back.
“It’s definitely a momentous occasion,” Cabbera described. “It’s for a great cause. And the money that you see raised is amazing, astronomical and exceptional. You can’t get that anywhere.”
Barrera added: “We love it. We’ve done it for so many years, and more and more members are coming out with us. It’s insane. It’s a little cold, but that’s what it’s about.”
‘Bond building for my team’
Led by Local 19 President and State Delegate Danielle Carvalho, nearly 30 Plainfield Local 19 members huddled together on the beach. For Local 19, the Polar Bear Plunge has become the ultimate team-building exercise.
Carvalho admired her team, who was mostly made up of first-time plungers. And a few who, like her, had been plunging for eight years.
“It’s great being able to do something that’s bond building for my team and raises money for the Special Olympics,” Carvalho said. “So, it’s a two for one. It feels great to be out here today.”
After plunging, Carvalho described the plunge in one word: “Cold.”
But that didn’t stop her from celebrating with thousands of other members at the 30th annual Polar Bear Plunge.
“The 30th year is amazing,” Carvalho declared. “The energy is amazing. The people are amazing. It gets bigger and bigger every year, and it just makes you feel like a part of a brotherhood when you’re here.”
And that brotherhood was strengthened for Local 19 members, who Carvalho said now had a stronger bond after plunging.
“It shows that police work is not just policing and criminals,” Carvalho added. “We’re a family, and we have to make sure everyone’s good at all times. This is a perfect example of that.”
‘Dress up, support the cause’
For more than 25 years, kids have been watching Ash Ketchum, the hero in the Pokemon series, try to fulfill his dream of becoming a Pokemon master. He would go far and wide to complete his Pokemon lineup.
Chris Banc and members of Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office Local165 brought their Ash Ketchum to the 30th annual Polar Bear Plunge. Local 165’s perennial plunge costuming featured Pokemon this year.
It’s not Banc’s first time on the Seaside Heights beach. Now in his 13th year, he’s become a veteran. He recalled how the event has evolved into his best day of the year.
“The first time ever, showing up here in just board shorts…and really not having a care in the world besides supporting the cause here,” he began. “Now that I come here with my department, I just dress up, support the cause and have fun, and it’s even better.”
After 13 years, Banc says he’s learned a thing or two.
“This year is probably the first time in about eight years where it’s going to be a struggle,” he shared. “If you remember, about eight years ago we had snow on the sand, which was wild. And it’s the first time in a while that the water’s warmer than the air today. I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s going to go.”
Through rain, sleet, snow and cold water, for Banc it’s always been about the cause over the last 13 years.
“I think most people here don’t forget the reason why we’re here,” he said. “They know why we’re here. We’re here for the Special Olympics, and we love doing what we’re doing.”
‘Warm clothes and a towel’
Standing on the beach preparing for his 14th trip into the water for the Polar Bear Plunge, Phil Mannix can’t remember the first chilly dip he took for charity.
“It’s a blur,” he said of the years that have passed by.
Yet he keeps coming back for the good times and the good cause.
“Every year, I’m like, ‘I’m getting too old for this. I don’t know if I can do it,’” said Mannix, of Union County Prosecutors Office Local 250. “But once you get down here [and] you get caught up in the moment — it’s worth it.”
Mannix’s years of experience contribute to his simple strategy: Get in, get out, get warm.
“I go in, I dunk in [to] make sure I cover myself, and then I get back out. I don’t stay out there like some of the Rahway guys,” Mannix said. “Have warm clothes and a towel when you get out, that’s the key.”
Mannix, similar to many, is quick to mention the camaraderie as a big part of why he continues to plunge. He’s done the event with the Prosecutor’s Office in the past, but with a group from Raleigh over the last decade.
“You look around, everybody’s smiling, having a great time,” Mannix added.
‘There’s pride in there’
Amid 58 Woodbridge Local 38 members prepping for the plunge in front of their hotel rooms just steps from the beach, nobody had a view of what it’s like to be here quite like Chief Bob Brady. Even fewer have done what Brady has: participated in all 30 years of the Polar Bear Plunge.
His first time came when the plunge was still being held at Jenks in Point Pleasant Beach. Brady recalls that the celebration included a performance by The Nerds, America’s ultimate party band.
“It was just a fantastic time,” Brady added. “And it brought everybody back.”
Since then, Brady remembers plunging when the temperature was 15 degrees and when it was 65 degrees. He’s done it in the snow and under blue, sunny skies.
He said he will plunge every year until he can’t walk anymore. And it’s a matter of just knowing that you’re going in with one rule.
“It doesn’t count if you don’t put your head under,” Brady said.
Brady’s plungemate for the past 25 years has been Local 38 member John Matty. When he did his first one in 1997, Matty said he was a rookie and ordered to do it.
A few years later, he brought his then-7-year-old son along to plunge. His son is now a captain in the U.S. Army. Matty has taken on the role of holding the Local flag so everybody who has gone under can easily find their clothes when they get out.
And he knows why they keep doing it and why Local 38 has grown to 58 members participating, which helped raise more than $13,000 for Special Olympics.
“There’s pride in there, because you’re helping these young athletes with disabilities,” Matty added. “You’re doing it for them.”
Brady said he is motivated to come back every year by how law enforcement officers bond and band together for the cause.
“The camaraderie with the PBA is, to me, the essence of what we’re supposed to be doing,” Brady stated. “When I see all these new guys and the amount of participation we have, that it’s where we should be. Because I don’t think we do this job unless we all know we have each other’s back. And it’s self-evident in what we’re doing here.”
‘I love raising money’
After emerging from the 2023 plunge, Sayreville Local 98 Steve Maslowski found himself draped in the legacy of the event. Wearing a robe showing each of the seven years he has plunged and “PBA Local 98” stitched into the spot over his heart, Maslowski nearly burst with his passion for the plunge.
That motivation and inspiration compelled Maslowski to grow the Local 98 plunge squad to 28 members. It started in 2016 with one member getting hooked, then four or five the next year.
Evoking the feeling of how cold it was for the 2023 event, Maslowski described, “It just snowballed after that.”
And no way he was going to be deterred by the cold. Maslowski was ready for it.
“Yeah, I was anticipating it,” he added. “I’ve been walking around with a T-shirt on just to get ready for this.”
The presence of nearly 7,500 plungers this year apparently provided the warmth to endure the cold this year. And once the 28 members of Local 98 dipped into the ocean, the cold gave way to a blanket of achievement and support for Special Olympics.
“It’s about raising money for a great cause,” Maslowski stated. “I love raising money for Special Olympics. Everything we do for Special Olympics is great.”
After plunging for the seventh time, Maslowski immediately started looking ahead.
“Hopefully, I will do it until the end of my career,” he said. “And I’ll definitely do it longer.”
‘Took my breath away’
Anticipation for his 12th plunge certainly elevated when Monmouth County Correction’s Officers Local 240 members raised a glass to toast their brother Scott Hayes. The series of toasts also prompted the relief that would come when hitting the ocean.
Hayes made it an even dozen, with 2023 being his last run into the Atlantic. He is retiring this year, and apparently there is no better way to go out than with a final plunge.
And one last year to capture that feeling that has brought Hayes here 12 times.
“It lets you know you’re alive,” Hayes submitted.
This last one also prompted an opportunity to think back to his first plunge. Like 2023, it was high tide. It was cold. And it was also snowing that year.
Hayes noted, however, what he felt that first year and has experienced every year since.
“The energy, the excitement,” he added. Local 240 member Greg Cannon, who has been plunging since 2006, stood side by side with Hayes, Solo cups in hand, as they counted down the time to hit the beach. He anticipated the invigoration, waiting with his plunging strategy honed over the past 12 years
“I try to go in four or five times and just go from there,” Cannon said.
And he shared how you never forget your first plunge.
“I went down to about my eyes, and it took my breath away,” Cannon commented. “And I’ve felt alive since then.”
‘Seeing everybody out here for a good cause’
The toughness of NJSPBA members who take the plunge was evident when State Campus Police Local 278 President Liz DeSantis made her way from the beach, through the Seaside Heights boardwalk and toward her ride home. Of all the challenges plungers must endure, one that gets sometimes underestimated could be wet hair.
While the freezing point of wet hair might not be known, DeSantis knows how to handle it. She has been participating in Seaside Heights every year since the 25th anniversary of the Polar Bear Plunge in 2018.
And she is always freezing for a reason.
“The camaraderie, the fun time and seeing everybody out here for a good cause,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis actually seasoned her plunge prowess in January 2009 when she first came on with the Baltimore City Police Department. As a recruit, she jumped into the Chesapeake Bay from Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. Department elders made the recruits plunge wearing their academy PT uniforms.
So when you’ve made it through igloo-like conditions, you learn how to handle it. Not that it’s taught in the academy, but plungers do what they have to do.
“Drink a little bit beforehand and jump in, get wet, put clothes on and then change and shower afterward,” she added.
And then work on getting warm, which requires even more toughness. You might not realize how long it takes to thaw out from the plunge.
“Oh, a few hours,” DeSantis confirmed.
‘Let’s keep the tradition going’
Another Polar Bear Plunge celebration ignited along Central Avenue, where Rahway Local 31 members once again made their headquarters in Seaside Heights. More than 50 people gathered at a hotel and accentuated how Local 31 continues to exemplify all things great and memorable about the event.
Among those, retired Local 31 member Jim Crowell readied for his 18th year of plunging. That first year — when he went in for a few seconds, came out for a few, went back in, came out and went back in until all other plungers cleared — continues to bring Crowell back to the beach each February.
“We met up with Bayonne [Local 7] and Guttenberg [Local 81], and every year since then we are in until the end, until they physically throw us out,” Crowell detailed. “It’s just a great event. For a bunch of guys jumping in the ocean and raising this much money for Special Olympics, it’s awesome.”
The plunge process that Local 31 has crafted is pretty simple.
“We like to have a little sandwich, maybe have a couple beverages, and go in and enjoy the day,” Crowell added.
Whether it’s plunge day or the desire to keep coming back, Crowell acknowledged that unique feeling that hits once Rahway gets up and running, typically some four hours before the start.
“The faces change, guys retire, and there’s a new crew coming in, but it’s fun every year,” Crowell noted. “So yeah, let’s keep the tradition going.”
He would be lying if he said it doesn’t get cold. But after 18 years, Crowell and his teammates have learned how to let the cold numb them until the NJ State Police dive team escorts them back to the beach. They are prepared with something warm to put on as soon as they emerge.
So no matter how cold it gets, Crowell doesn’t see an end to his plunging days anytime soon.
“Because it’s a great event,” he said. “People give us a lot of money to come and do this, so we want to give them their money’s worth. We can help other people by doing something so simple. It’s a great feeling.”
Spotlighting the first-time plungers
‘It’s all mental’
Some might say there’s a science to plunging into the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Others say you just have to run in and plunge.
For first-timers like Joe Talbot from Local 93 Piscataway, there is no thinking about it. The only option is to do it.
But it’s not all about the pain of the water for Talbot. For him, it’s about a sense of brotherhood he feels bonding with his members.
“It’s special,” he said. “[You] get to hang out with everybody. It’s like one big family.”
It’s that family — along with the Special Olympics of New Jersey – that convinced Talbot to plunge in the first place.
There’s no denying it was cold on that February day, but if you ask Talbot, the actual temperature doesn’t have much to do with it.
“You know what, to me, it’s all mental. It really is,” he said.
‘We’re making it a big thing’
It took Ocean City Sheriff’s Department Local 379 member Will White eight years to make it to the Polar Bear Plunge. And his debut involved dressing as a bad guy.
White and the Local 379 crew pulled out all the stops with their “Heroes and Villains” theme. Calling himself “pretty bald,” White cut it all off, pulled out some of his military gear and found a mask to complete his look as the evil Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises.”
“I’m having a blast. Our department puts on a good show. We have food, we have drinks. We’re making it a big thing,” White explained
But, even dressed as Bane, White couldn’t fight off the anxious feeling that came with preparing to crash the water.
“I’m just going to dive in and just go for it — and then kind of run out fast as I can and get covered up so I don’t freeze to death,” White offered.
After years of missing out on the event, the moment of truth was going to be worth it for White, no matter the bone chilling cold.
“Some people tell me that you’re numb for about five hours afterward,” he said, adding that that fact wouldn’t keep him on the sidelines any longer. “I’ve been wanting to do it for so many years, but I was always busy. I wanted to raise money for the kids [and] Special Olympics.”
‘There are worse things you can do as a law enforcement officer’
Of all the first-timers on the beach, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office Local 187 member Anastacion Perez-Ortiz put the Polar Bear Plunge in a unique perspective.
Sure, it would be cold. Sure, the anticipation of it being cold can get in your head. But things could be a lot worse.
“Listen, there are worse things you can do as a law enforcement officer,” Perez shared as he waited to take the plunge. “This is for a good cause. It feels good. It’s just a big family doing something for a good cause.”
With the horn to begin plunging just minutes away, Perez battled some nerves as he made his final mental preparations.
“It’s cold, but I’m excited,” he described. “I’m a little shaky about doing it just because of the cold weather. I’m just going with it.”
What helped make it all easier were his fellow officers from Local 187.
“Just the team, just [doing it] with my coworkers,” said Perez, who worked state corrections for two years before joining Mercer County last year. “They told me about it. I always wanted to do it when I was with corrections.”
‘Got to be part of this’
George Lias wouldn’t let anything keep him from his first-ever Polar Bear Plunge.
The Elizabeth Local 4 member has heard the stories and seen what a great time his peers had at the event in the past. It was never a lack of commitment that kept him out of the water. It was a matter of timing — the plunge has traditionally landed on the same day as his son’s birthday party.
“I’ve got to be part of this,” the 13-year police veteran recalled thinking.
To do it, he wrangled a family scheduling change.
“I said screw it, we’re going to have the party on a Sunday — I’m going to the plunge on Saturday,” Lias explained.
The experience did not disappoint.
“I love it. We’re having a good time … just hanging out with the guys and [getting ready to jump] in this frigid water,” he said, before offering his preparation method. “I’m just going in, and I don’t care. Whatever happens, happens. It’s going to be very cold.”
Even before his first plunge was in the books, Lias was already locking in his plans for 2024.
“Oh, 100 percent, I’ll be here,” Lias said.
‘Motivated, motivated, motivated, motivated’
Preparing to take the plunge for the first time, Woodbridge Local 38 member Edward Caroselli noted that he was expecting to freeze the moment he stepped foot in the wintry Atlantic waters.
Next to him, Local 38 member Michael Harris nodded his head in agreement. But he had a notion about the warmth of the plunge.
“I’m anticipating a lot of motivation, a lot of spirit, a lot of passion and a lot of love out there,” Harris added. “It’s going to be a blast.”
The duo plunged for the first time and described their excitement of experiencing the day.
“It’s incredible — I love it,” Harris said. “I’m excited to be with my brothers, my family, excited to be out here for a great cause and just motivated, motivated, motivated, motivated.”
Harris and Caroselli heard about the plunge from Local 38 members who participate every year. They immediately volunteered to support the cause.
Overflowing with excitement for the plunge, Caroselli affirmed why they were plunging for the first time.
“The most important thing is the cause, and that’s why we’re all out here,” Caroselli added. “To support everything that’s going on and be with our brothers.”
‘1.4 seconds in the water’
Standing in the cold sand on the seashore of Seaside Heights, Sayreville Local 98 member Glenn Wagner prepared to take the plunge.
In his seven years of plunging, Wagner has experienced the intensity of hundreds of members flooding the beach and the minutes that may feel like an eternity while waiting to hit the ocean.
“It’s cold,” Wagner agreed. “But it’s all for a good cause, so we’re excited to be here.”
Wagner first heard about the SONJ Polar Bear Plunge from Local 98 members, who he said have always been extremely supportive of Special Olympics.
And after working with individuals with special needs while on the job, Wagner submitted that inspired him even more to continue supporting the cause.
It’s just something he wants to do.
“I’m probably going to last 1.4 seconds in the water,” Wagner quipped only moments before members rushed into the ocean. “We’re just excited. And we’re hoping for an even bigger turnout next year.”
‘We’re going to win it again’
Joining one of the well-known Locals that always make it the mission to stay in the water the longest, Local 31 members Rachel Loeffler and Jonathan Torres beamed with excitement at the thought of their first plunge.
They submitted that they knew it would be cold, and Torres joked that he was anticipating hyperthermia. But the energy of the 30th annual Polar Bear Plunge seemed to hype them up.
As the prepared to plunge, Loeffler and Torres seemed to hope they could live up to the reputation that Rahway Local 31 has established of having the last man standing.
“Nobody [else] is going to win it,” Loeffler declared. “We’re going sto win it again.”
Local 31 member Sean Twerdak, another first-time plunger, added he wanted to take up the challenge as well and be the first one in and the last one out.
Twerdak admitted he didn’t know if he could survive the 45 minutes that Rahway usually achieves, but he would certainly try.
“I’m not saying I can’t, alright?” Twerdak quipped.
Although it was the trio’s first time plunging, they had already picked up a few tricks for the plunge from veteran Local 31 plungers — like wearing multiple layers, bringing blankets and wearing good water shoes.
And Loeffler paused for a moment to reflect on the experience of her first-time plunge.
“It’s a lot of fun so far,” Loeffler added. “There’s a lot of camaraderie with the Local and getting to see the other Locals. It’s exciting.”
‘It’s cold, but it’s worth it’
After taking the plunge, Plainfield Local 19 member Anthony Ruiz ran up the sand to the group of 30 Local 19 members who had joined him for the 30th annual Polar Bear Plunge. Although Ruiz has been on the job 11 years, this was his first time plunging.
And he would definitely do it again.
“I feel good,” Ruiz expressed. “It’s cold, but it’s worth it.”
Ruiz stated that several Local 45 members talked him into experiencing the plunge. At first, he said he would never do it. But after plunging, Ruiz’s mind has changed completely, thanks to the support of his brothers and sisters.
“These guys and ladies, they’re real,” said Ruiz. “I enjoyed it, and I recommend it. I’m definitely coming back next year, and for more years to come.”
‘I should have come down more often’
Spreading the love of the Polar Bear Plunge reverberated from the Dunellen Local 146 group getting its plunge on. A couple of Local newcomers to the event heard about how incomparable the plunge is from State Delegate Joe Dudley, almost nonstop, since he did his first one in 2022.
So Dunellen Chief Dan Smith and Officer Kevin Condus joined the Local 146 team this year. As they were partaking in the special pre-plunge hydration routine, they revealed what compelled them to participate.
“Peer pressure,” Smith quipped. “Dudley kept talking about it, so that’s why I wanted to do it.”
Actually, what Smith heard didn’t even match what he witnessed on the streets of Seaside Heights as plunge time loomed.
“I’m upset that I missed this all these years. I should have come down more often,” Smith said. “I’ll be coming every year until I don’t want to go full water anymore.”
PBA members often hear about the memorable moments that come with a long career in law enforcement. Taking the plunge seems to have become one of those moments, and Condus was party to all of it in his first time.
“I had heard it’s cold, but it’s a lot of fun,” he explained. “It’s hanging out with everyone, being able to enjoy good camaraderie with everyone and seeing guys from all over the state.”
Both Smith and Condus anticipated the cold play ahead, but they also seemed to have a firm grasp on the reward of participating: “To be able to jump in and be able to say, ‘I did it,’” Condus said.