Freezin’ for a reason: Milestone 25th Polar Bear Plunge a record-setter

plunge team teresa in water posed

Ankle-deep in the Atlantic Ocean, Team Teresa members, from left, Vikki Prettyman, Teresa Shockley and Nikki Ireland were among the 3,501 participants in Sunday’s record-setting Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware.

REHOBOTH BEACH – It is official: the milestone 25th Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware is one for the record books.

On an overcast afternoon in 43-degree water and 45-degree air temperature, a record 3,501 Polar Bears took the plunge Sunday, teaming to raise a record-setting $820,000 that will support the 3,700 Special Olympics athletes and programs in the First State.

plunge 25th sweatshirt

Sunday’s monster monetary tally surpassed the $780,000 raised last year by 3,325 registered plunge participants.

“In the event’s 25-year history, more than $9.12 million has been raised,” said Special Olympics Delaware spokesman Jon Buzby.

For George Hickman it was his 16th plunge. The 74-year-old Ocean View man showed up early, staking his ground on the storm-battered beach with several flags: Stars & Stripes, state of Delaware and one representing the United States Marine Corps. He was accompanied by two plunging family members, stepson Greg Hall and grandson Joey Hall.

plunge george hickman GOOD ONE

George Hickman, 74, of Ocean View, made his 16th plunge in Sunday’s event supporting Special Olympics Delaware.

“It’s Special Olympics, and it’s for children. I said, ‘That’s for me,’” said Mr. Hickman. “Look, all I have to do is get the pledge money, jump in the ocean – and then have a child come up to me and say, ‘Thank you sir for all you’re doing.’ That’s all I need.”

At age 75, Carol Antolik made her annual pilgrimage from Wilkes-Barre, Pa. It all started 15 years ago when she got a call from her niece’s little girl, Elizabeth Avelleyra, a Special Olympian from Lewes.

“She said, ‘Will can you come down in January?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ Then she said, ‘Will you do me a favor? I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘Will you jump in the ocean?’ I said, ‘Elizabeth, I am crazy but I am not that crazy. And I am still doing it. They call me Crazy Aunt Carol,” said Ms. Antolik. “I love it. I am going to keep doing it as long as I can.”

PLUNGE antolik eglit plungers

Carol Antolik and Jeremy Eglit dressed as the Queen and King of Plungers for Sunday’s Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics presented by Wawa.

Through the plunge, a friendship bond was born between Ms. Antolik and Jamie Eglit and her son Jeremy Eglit, a longtime Special Olympics athlete from the Millville/Ocean View area. Jeremy excels in swimming and power-lifting and recently achieved a colossal 305-pound dead lift.

“Jeremy has been an athlete since he was 8 years old. The money that these people raise for him and all of the other athletes is amazing. And they get socialization … that they normally wouldn’t have without this,” said Ms. Eglit. “In Special Olympics they are not judged. And what’s nice as a parent is that they cheer just as much for the first as they do the last. There is no, ‘I am better than you.’ Everybody cheers for everybody. Everybody is equal. And that is what I think I like the best.”

Middletown High School students Kylee Derrickson and Morgan Callahan were among the students manning the pledge booth, soliciting pledges to be respectful of all people and eliminate the derrogatory use of the "R-word" at Sunday's Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware.

Middletown High School students Kylee Derrickson and Morgan Callahan were among the students manning the pledge booth, soliciting pledges to be respectful of all people and eliminate the derogatory use of the “R-word” at Sunday’s Lewes Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware.

For costumes, Ms. Antolik and Jeremy Eglit dressed as the Queen and King of the Plungers, armed with gold-painted bathroom plungers. They were among the many costumed participants who jammed the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk.

“They (the Eglits) made me the queen outfit,” said Ms. Antolik. “You meet so many nice people. They are part of my life.”

On the sandy south side of the plunging pad were members of Sussex County-based Team Teresa: Vikki Prettyman, Nikki Ireland and her aunt, Teresa Shockley of Frankford, the team’s polar bear veteran who survived her fourth plunge – albeit only about ankle deep. Team Teresa raised $1,500.

“I am here to support my aunt, and of course Special Olympics,” said Ms. Ireland, of Frankford.

The why-I-plunge incentive for Ms. Shockley was simple: “Special Olympics – and I used to work at the Stockley Center,” she said.

“Teresa has been asking me for four years and I agreed that I would do it this year. It is for a good cause. Special Olympics Delaware is an amazing organization,” Ms. Prettyman, who explained the rationale for the ankle-deep plunge.  “I have been suffering with a cold the last week. For the first year I kind of wanted to test the waters. But next year I am going in … full-bear plunge. They say you are not a ‘bear’ unless you go in all of the way; that’s what I have been told. So I am going to try to get a couple of people and we are going to do more fundraising to raise more money.”

Wawa, which provided free coffee and hot chocolate, was again the presenting sponsor of the event.

plunge five frost friends plu one

Among the 3,501 Polar Bears who took the plunge Sunday were the Five Frosty Friends Plus One, a team from Rehoboth Beach. From left: Karen Peterman, Pat Catanzariti, Linda Tobin, Wendy Schadt, Joanne Kempton and Carla Kosta.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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