Polar Bear Club distributes funds raised from New Year’s Plunge to Aquarium, local nonprofits
It may be the middle of summer, but the Coney Island Polar Bear Club has just announced the recipients of the money raised from its 117th Annual Virtual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge — all of them well-known nonprofits in the Coney Island area.
The Polar Bear Club awarded donations totaling more than $10,000 to these organizations. It chose groups that demonstrate community leadership ranging from advocacy, public programming and educational resources to youth engagement. The Plunge, held virtually this year because of COVID, resulted in more than 200 supporters purchasing items that directly supported the nonprofits.
The New York Aquarium, one of the borough’s biggest tourist attractions, received $2,500. The donated funds will help support the Aquarium’s local conservation initiative, the New York Seascape program. Specifically, the money will help fund the Seascape’s work studying the region’s whale and shark populations; help restore healthy populations of alewife herring and American eels to local waterways; and build a local marine conservation constituency in Coney Island.
In addition, the Polar Bears’ fundraising partner, the Alliance for Coney Island received close to $2,000, which will support its free summer events such as the weekly Friday Night Fireworks and support for small businesses trying to recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Other community-based organizations like Coney Island USA, which presents the annual Mermaid Parade as well as Sideshows by the Seashore and the Coney Island Museum; and the Coney Island History Project received donations ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.
The Coney Island YMCA was awarded $2,500 for its summer camp scholarship program, a program that allows several children from the community to attend camp over the summer and engage in activities that will enhance their social skills, help keep their academics on track, keep them physically active and challenge them to learn new things every day.
“During this difficult year, after having to cancel our traditional Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge, we appreciate all those supporters who continued to aid Coney Island through their generous donations to our fund-raising drive. We are happy to be able to distribute these funds to the Coney Island community. We anticipate the most chilling and successful New Year’s Day Plunge on Jan. 1, 2022 and hope to see you all on the beach,” said Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club.
“We were proud to find a creative way to keep the spirit of the Plunge alive during a difficult time. While the virtual fundraiser is nothing like the real event, we were ecstatic to continue the tradition of raising funds with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and appreciate all the donors. We can’t wait for New Year’s Day 2022 when we can see everyone plunging once again!” said Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island.
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The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States. They swim in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island every Sunday from November through April. Since 1903, it has hosted a public New Year’s Day Plunge for all brave souls to welcome the New Year. While the event is free, the Polar Bears encourage plungers to make a donation to its charity sponsors.
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