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Thousands dive in for Long Beach polar plunge

People charge into the Atlantic Ocean in Long

People charge into the Atlantic Ocean in Long Beach on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, for the 15th annual Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash. (Credit: Tara Conry)

For her fourth consecutive Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash, Tracy Krauss dressed the part. Sporting a head-to-toe polar bear costume complete with white, furry feet, Krauss, 40, of Long Beach, stood on the sand with thousands of others Sunday afternoon, ready to charge into the Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s a fun way to spend a Sunday in February,” said Krauss, who has participated in the event ever since she moved to Long Beach in 2010.

The annual plunge, now in its 15th year, raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening conditions. It also honors the memory of 4-year-old Paulie Bradley, of Island Park, who died in 1997 of cancer before Make-A-Wish could grant his request to vacation in Puerto Rico with his family.

The cause is personal to Krauss, she explained, while shedding the polar bear costume to unveil a gold bathing suit and orange socks. Gold is the color of childhood cancer awareness; orange represents leukemia awareness.

Krauss’s niece, Aubri Krauss, 5, of Centereach, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 3. Her cancer is currently in remission, and the family will soon be taking a vacation in Hawaii thanks to Make-A-Wish.

“What these kids go through when they are battling these life-threatening illnesses, they deserve to have just one week or a moment,” she said.

Despite a winter with record-breaking below-freezing conditions, the “polar bears” lucked out. The temperature outside reached 52 degrees, prompting many of the participants to dive into the 30-degree water more than once.

The warmer weather also prompted Jason Kleinman, 24, of Island Park, to step out wearing only a bow tie and a thong bikini bottom.  It was his third polar plunge.

“The first two seconds it feels like pins and needles hitting you, but after that you’re fine,” he said. “It’s invigorating.”

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