Radix Elementary School Student Resource Officer James Sharp took the Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 14 to help raise money for the Special Olympics.
“When I was working at the Gloucester County jail, a friend of mine did the Polar Plunge and he invited us to do it,” said Sharp, who has now taken the plunge 10 times. “Right now, we have a group of 51 and we have a giant, 12-foot-high polar bear we bring down there.”
The Polar Bear Plunge took place in Wildwood and welcomed many people who raised money to help support Special Olympics New Jersey. That organization provides free year-round sports training; competition; leadership opportunities; and health screenings, thanks to donations from events like the plunge.
Financial support for the event comes from participant fees and online fundraising. Sharp raised almost $90 in his personal fundraiser and his group, The Piggy Park Plungers, raised almost $10,000. The “plungers” include Sharp’s colleague Scott Rambo, who returns from Florida every year to participate, and Sharp’s wife and three daughters.
According to Sharp, after participants plunge into the ocean, they are welcomed to Wildwood Convention Hall to eat and get rinsed with warm water. Special Olympians are then introduced to evoke the importance of the event.
Sharp said the best weather for a plunge is a warm 60 degrees with no wind, though he himself has experienced the chills and breezes hitting him with pelting sand. But for Sharp and his crew, it’s all worth it.
“It is really special to see the smiles on the kids’ faces …” he said. “We have become friends with a few of the Special Olympians after doing it (the plunge) for two years; the third year, we finally took time to see them and speak with them.”