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Polar bear plunge in Coney Island to benefit community nonprofits

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge on

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club Plunge on New Year's Day will benefit nonprofits that give back to the local community. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s upcoming dip in the frigid Atlantic Ocean will benefit the very community that spearheaded the event 114 years ago.

Registration is open for the 2018 polar bear plunge, a New Year’s Day tradition in Coney Island that raises money for nonprofit organizations. Last January’s plunge benefited Camp Sunshine, a year-round program for children with life-threatening illnesses.

For 2018, the club seeks to raise $80,000 for several nonprofits that support the Coney Island community, including the New York Aquarium and the Alliance for Coney Island, with a focus on sustainability and advocating for a clean environment. As of Tuesday, over $14,800 has been raised.

Coney Island is still rebounding from the devastation of superstorm Sandy five years ago, and the Alliance will use part of the donated money to advocate for clean water and to educate the public about waste, according to the organization. Funds raised will also be put toward supporting the Alliance’s workforce development programs, connecting residents with job opportunities and neighborhood services.

“Coney Island is a neighborhood of 50,000 with a poverty rate close to 30 percent and is situated right on the Atlantic Ocean,” the Polar Bear Club says on its website with regard to its 2018 nonprofit choices.

Club members swim in the Atlantic every Sunday from November through April, but the New Year’s Day plunge is open to the public and there is no fee, though registration is required and donations are suggested. Anyone brave enough to run into the freezing water may register online ahead of time with a minimum donation of $25, or register for free on the day of the event, starting at 10 a.m.

All participants will get free admission to the New York Aquarium. Those who donate more than $100 will receive a commemorative T-shirt and pint glass from Coney Island Brewery. Donations of $500 or more will earn a commemorative sweatshirt.

The plunge takes place at 1 p.m. at Coney Island Beach. Those looking to participate should meet on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue.

The club advises participants to bring surf boots or old sneakers, towels and warm clothes to change into. The parks department will provide changing facilities.

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