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Oyster Bay polar plunge becomes a black-tie affair

When Jack Sullivan, right, got married in 1996,

When Jack Sullivan, right, got married in 1996, he had no idea he would be taking a second plunge nearly two decades later. Sullivan wore his wedding tuxedo when he dove into the water at the 2014 United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County Polar Bear Plunge in Oyster Bay. Frank Ozol, Sullivan's fellow UCPN chairman, joined him in formal attire. "I've had a very blessed life," Sullivan said, acknowledging he would be taking another trip to the dry cleaners afterward. "Why not do something for people less fortunate than me?" Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

Jack Sullivan pulled a dry-cleaning receipt from his pocket, dated March 20, 1996, to prove he waited for the right time to wear his tuxedo again.

But Sullivan wasn’t going to a wedding. He and Frank Ozol,  fellow chairman of the  United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, traded swimsuits for dress suits Sunday for the 10th anniversary of the UCPN Polar Bear Plunge at Teddy Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay.

Sullivan, 67, of Long Beach, says he was able to garner the support of many Long Beach residents to help launch the event 10 years ago.  

“I’ve had a very blessed life,” said Sullivan, who like Ozol will need another trip to the dry cleaners after jumping into the water. “Why not do something for people less fortunate than me?”

The feeling of giving swept through cyberspace for a group of college students from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Using Facebook to raise awareness and solicit funds, the women had $345 in donations just three days before the plunge, but their numbers soared to $1,700 just moments before the event.

“People just plugged in their credit card numbers and gave money to us,” said Quinnipiac University student Jenna Siessel, 18, from Morristown, N.J.

Participation is a key highlight for lifeguard-turned-volunteer-firefighter Sarah Feingold, 37, of North Amityville.  Feingold, the last participant to exit the water after enduring chilly temperatures for 12 minutes, is a seasoned supporter.  Earlier this year, she participated in the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s  New Year’s Day swim. There, Feingold stayed in the  waters off Brooklyn for 52 minutes.

For Feingold, the rationale is simple.

“If I’m going to go and raise the money, wake up, put the bathing suit on, drive here and get in the water and get wet," she said, "I make it worth my while.” 

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