Rumson, NJ – What started in 2003 as a group of mostly Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft, NJ) alumni having some fun on New Year’s Day has evolved into a major annual fundraising event drawing close to 3,000 spectators and as many as 500 plungers who dip, jump, leap and body surf into the Atlantic Ocean on the morning of the first day of the New Year to raise money for worthy grassroots charities.

“It was just for fun at first,” says Steve Brennan (Rumson NJ), “a great way to start the New Year and raise money to help a good cause.” Clifford is one of the original core group of friends who formed the non-profit Sons of Ireland organization in 2002. The association is dedicated to the principles of brotherhood, charity and community service, and supports worthy non-profits within the Monmouth County, NJ area.

“The plunge became an annual tradition and we started to charge twenty-five dollars to anyone who wanted to participate and then we donated the money to charity,” recalls Brennan. “I’m not sure that any of us, looking back, imaged that in ten years we’d still be doing this or that it would become so large or such an anticipated tradition along the Jersey Shore.”

The Sons of Ireland Polar Bear Plunge has raised over $300,000 for charities including The 9/11 Fund for the Education of Monmouth County Children, The Ashley Lauren Foundation, The Barn for the Poorest of the Poor, Clean Ocean Action, The Mercy Center, The Wellness Community, Holiday Express, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middlesex & Monmouth Counties, and Special Olympics.

This year, the event will benefit four local charities: Sea Bright Rising, Horizons, Project Oasis, Providence House and the Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund. Sponsors include Linksys, a home and office networking technology products company and Madison Marquette.

The event was originally held at Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright which was very important to establishing the event as a tradition in the local Two River community. In 2008, the organizers were approached by Asbury Park and invited to use Convention Hall and the Asbury Park Boardwalk, which has really helped support the event as it has grown. “We have a very large, heated enclosure with Convention Hall,” says Dennis Nitka (Rumson, NJ), another of the Sons of Ireland. “This gives us a large warm space to gather before and after the Plunge, plus plenty of parking, welcoming local businesses and other amenities. This year, to celebrate our tenth anniversary, we have invited both Brian Kirk and the Jirks AND The Nerds to perform. These are two of the best bands on the Jersey Shore, and they are guaranteed to get everyone dancing at our post-plunge party.” There will also be children’s entertainment at this very family friendly event. 

“Each plunger is asked to raise a minimum of $100,” says Brennan.  “We have people of all ages who come out, from high school sports teams to groups of friends, people celebrating a milestone like a fiftieth birthday, people who just love the ocean…sometimes entire families take the plunge. It’s something all the spectators really enjoy watching.”

About Our 2013 Charities:

Sea Bright Rising is a non-profit organization devoted to the relief of the needy and/or displaced and the general recovery of the town of Sea Bright, New Jersey as a result of the devastation created by Hurricane Sandy in the Fall of 2012. Sea Bright Rising is focused on three main components of recovery in Sea Bright: residents, business community and community infrastructure.

Horizons has operated on the campus of the Rumson Country Day School for the past fifteen years. Each summer, Horizons offers a six-week academic, cultural and recreational enrichment program to at-risk students from a diverse, low-income population of students in grades K-8 who live primarily in the Red Bank, NJ area. Horizons' goal is to offer more than 100 students the opportunity to attend Horizons during the summer of 2013. 

Project Oasis was founded in 2000 to promote inclusion and acceptance of autistic individuals into their local communities by establishing environmentally exemplary farm centers that provide meaningful work, peaceful and healthy residences and community interaction. A sister organization of I.M.P.A.C.T. (Improving Middletown’s Program for Autistic Children Together), Project Oasis also assists the local public school system by developing educational programs for our area’s increasing autistic population. IMPACT members worked tirelessly to increase awareness and educate the public about autism and how it affects children.

Providence Medical Clinic is a free medical treatment provider located in Neptune, NJ.  Free health care and medical treatment are provided by a volunteer staff of 30 medical professionals to uninsured and underserved residents of Monmouth County. The Clinic, in operation since 1998, provides primary health care including the treatment of acute illnesses, wellness care, mammograms, pre-school and pre-employment physicals, pap smears, and an indigent prescription drug program.

The Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Memorial Fund honors the life and memory of U.S. Army Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II, a Monmouth County native who graduated from Christian Brothers Academy and The United States Military Academy at West Point. After being commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, Dennis was accepted into Ranger School and graduated in March of 2005. He deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, where he was killed in action two months later. Dennis’ Memorial Fund provides support to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families, especially to severely wounded returning veterans from New Jersey. Additionally, by providing scholarships to CBA, the Fund invests in the future of high school students who embody the leadership qualities and community spirit of Lt. Zilinski.

A Great Event Even for Landlubbers

Spectators enjoy a great day too. This year, Kimon and the Prophets will warm up the crowd pre-plunge.  Post-plunge, Brian Kirk and the Jirks and The Nerds, two of New Jersey’s most popular club bands, will get the crowd dancing. The Sons of Ireland Polar Bear Plunge takes place at the Fifth Avenue intersection on Ocean Avenue, in Convention Hall on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. This year, due to damage from SuperStorm Sandy, the plunge will take place on the north side of Convention Hall. Food and beverages are available.

Registration begins at 10:00 a.m and the Polar Bear Plunge takes place at 1:00 p.m., following a bagpipe march to the water’s edge and the singing of the National Anthem. To register or for more information, visit www.sonsofireland.org