BRIGANTINE — After a two-week postponement due to frigid New Year's Day temperatures, the 18th annual Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge to benefit the Fisher House Foundation was held Saturday, Jan. 13, on the 14th Street South beach.
City Councilman Mike Riordan, who served as emcee, said this year's plunge raised more than $70,000 for the foundation, bringing the total contributions to more than $500,000 since the event started.
The foundation provides housing for families of wounded soldiers near military and veterans hospitals in the United States and overseas.
Fisher Houses can have up to 21 suites, with private bedrooms and baths. Families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, dining room and living room.
Fisher House Chief of Staff Mary Considine was among those taking the plunge Saturday.
“I have to tell you, this is one of the most amazing events anywhere in the country — anywhere in the world — that any organization does for Fisher House,” Considine said.
“This is also one of our largest and longest-running fundraisers. It's just incredible what you all do to assist military families. Through your efforts, and just this month, we hit a new milestone of 75 Fisher Houses worldwide. We could not do this without you.”
More than 170 sponsors made donations. Money was also raised through merchandise sales, on-site collections and individual pledges.
Longtime Brigantine resident Chris Howe raised $1,500 for Fisher House on behalf of his father, Roy Howe, a Korean War veteran who died in November.
Deputy Mayor Andy Simpson donated $2,000 — $500 each for Mayor Phil Guenther, his wife, Lee Ann, Fire Chief Tige Platt and Police Chief Jim Bennett to do the plunge on a yearslong dare.
“Deputy Mayor Simpson embarrassed me at a council meeting and challenged me to go in, and I've been going in ever since,” the mayor said.
“As all of you know, Fisher House provides a wonderful service for the families of our wounded heroes who are coming back from America's longest war, protecting our freedoms in the war on terrorism,” Guenther said. “We are so proud of the efforts our local polar-bear committee does, and certainly all of us as Americans are proud of the great work that Fisher House does.”
In the annual costume contest before the plunge, Marisela Dellinger's Zumba Chicks placed third dressed as dancing Santas, Paul Amalfitano and his family won second prize as a family of polar bears, and a group dressed as Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes took top honors, earning the grand prize of a 4x4 Assist package donated by RipTide Bait & Tackle and Brigantine Auto.
The Billy Walton Band provided live music inside Laguna Grill & Rum Bar after the plunge. The Incognito band took the stage after the Eagles-Falcons NFC playoff game was televised on a giant-screen TV on the 14th Street beach.