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Brookhaven polar plunge organizer jumps in with the crowd

Jennifer Cantone, 44, of Coram, an associate director

Jennifer Cantone, 44, of Coram, an associate director of development for Special Olympics New York on Nov. 19, 2016. She took the plunge for the first time after years of being its organizer. Credit: Ian J. Stark

Sturdy souls charged into Long Island Sound off Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai last Saturday for the seventh annual Town of Brookhaven Polar Plunge.

For those who decided to get involved, the main contact was a woman who spends a significant portion of her time organizing this late autumn dip, despite the fact she personally had never splashed in as part of the event.

She can now scratch polar plunge participant off her bucket list.

“No one ever held that against me, or brought it up,” explained Jennifer Cantone, 44, of Coram, after her first plunge. “I’ve spoken to so many people about taking part, so it makes sense that I finally did it.”

As associate director of development for Special Olympics New York -- the organization that benefits from the annual Town of Brookhaven Polar Plunge -- one of Cantone’s responsibilities is getting the word out about the plunge and inspiring participation.

“It’s not hard at all to do,” she said Nov. 19, after drying off post-plunge.

While discussing her experience, she simultaneously thanked participants as they left and helped others get souvenir sweatshirts.

“The people who do this are all such great sports. Residents of the Town of Brookhaven, the school districts, they are fantastic . . .  this is a great community and there’s always lots of people interested,” she added.

Participants plunged in four large groups with an air temperature of about 60 degrees and a water temperature of 55 degrees. However, it was still chilly enough to cause cringing and shocked laughter upon entry.

The scene was festive, with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin J. LaValle on hand as well as  the Hofstra University cheerleaders who presented a stunt in the sand before hitting the water.

While most participants were in standard swimwear, some people wore colorful wigs and costumes.

“We’re here for the cause, for sure,” explained Maureen Reeves, 52, of Manorville, as she arrived costumed as a pink loofah with one friend dressed as a blue loofah, the other a bar of soap.

Cantone came away with something she could add to her pitch in the future -- an understanding of how it really feels to take the plunge.

“Now I can say that I’ve done it . . . and it was life-affirming," she said. "If someone asks me how it feels, I’ll tell them, ‘It’s amazing.’ ”

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