Dressed as a mermaid, Jimmy Mack fearlessly sprinted across Cooper’s Beach in Southampton and plunged into the 50-degree water without hesitation.
This year during the 9th annual Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday, the veteran plunger brought along his husband Brian Mott, who dressed as Poseidon for his first plunge.
“I couldn’t believe how incredibly cold it was,” said Mott, 47, of North Sea. “I’m going up to my ankles and running out and then back in as quickly as possible. I’m from the Deep South. This isn’t warm. There is nothing warm about this.”
The couple was among the hundreds to take the plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, raising thousands of dollars for the Human Resources of the Hamptons’ food pantry.
Even with the pins and needles feeling, goosebumps, and cold sand between his toes, Mack said it was all worth helping his hometown.
“I grew up in Southampton, and I know that a lot of people can’t fathom this, but there are actually a lot of people who go hungry,” said Mack, 55, of North Sea. “I’d do anything to help.”
Mary Ann Tupper, director of Human Resources of the Hamptons, said the organization aims to raise $100,000 to provide turkey dinners, holiday presents and everyday essentials to Long Island families in need.
“It’s cold out here, but it gives you such a great feeling to help someone else,” said Tupper, of Southampton, who also took the plunge. “Imagine waking up on Christmas morning and not having a present from Santa under the tree. This makes Santa appear in many, many homes.”
The food pantry, in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church’s school basement, is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon.
“On Dec. 19, we’re going to give away 300 turkeys and 4,500 gifts to children in the community,” Tupper said.
Last year, 450 people plunged, raising $80,000 to provide food, emergency fuel and utilities, school supplies, medical transportation and home repairs to local families in need. As of Saturday night, Tupper was unsure how much was raised by this year’s plunge or the total number of plungers.
Karmen Friedman, 13, shivered underneath a towel next to her friend Samantha Wesnofske, 12, after jumping into the ocean three times.
“It felt like needles hitting my body, but we didn’t want to be chicken,” said Friedman, of Water Mill.
Gary Glanz, who founded the Polar Bear Plunge in 2004, said that over the past eight years, the events have raised $700,000 for Human Resources of the Hamptons.
“Next year, we’re planning to have a big fire on the beach and serve hot soup to plungers,” said Glanz, 59, of North Sea. “We’re looking to improve the experience and keep everyone here longer.”