Polar Bear Plunge Weekend Another Winner
By Joanna Heston
The 2018 Royal Polar Bear Family (from left): King Mike Johnson, Prince Kyle Knoebel, Princess Lauren Mostak and Queen Kate O’Brien.
Nearly 1,800 hardy souls braved the chilly Atlantic Ocean during the 24th Annual Polar Bear Plunge held over Presidents Day weekend in Sea Isle City. With an estimated 40,000 visitors in town for the festivities, the weekend kicked off on Friday, Feb. 16 with the crowning of the Royal Family and concluded on Sunday, Feb. 18 with the 10th Annual Mike’s Seafood Run/Walk for Autism and the Polar Bear Cornhole Tournament.
“This year’s event was a success,” said Jimmy Bennett, owner of La Costa and event coordinator. “Thousands spent Presidents Day weekend in Sea Isle City and helped us crown a new Polar Bear Royal family, there were so many great costumes and spirited participants for the plunge, and Mike [Monichetti] did another tremendous job with the Run/Walk for Autism. We’re really looking forward to our 25th annual event next year.”
Kyle Knoebel, 12, and Lauren Mostak, 15, were crowned the 2018 Polar Bear Prince and Princess on Friday night at La Costa. To complete the Royal Polar Bear Family, La Costa owner Jimmy Bennett emceed the King and Queen crowning, as he presented crowns and sashes to Mike Johnson and Kate O’Brien. Together, Johnson and O’Brien raised $18,000 for the Mike’s Seafood Run/Walk for Autism.
The ‘Saturday Night Freezer’ gang won Best in Show in the costume contest.
Saturday’s festivities kicked off at noon with the spirited costume contest at La Costa. This year’s first- and second-place winners in Best in Show were “Saturday Night Freezer” and “Game of Thrones.” In the Individual category, “Frozen” won first place and “Land Sharks” received second place. “Grease the Poles” received first place in medium group while “USA Olympics” placed second. “Star Wars” took first place in the large group, with “Peter Pan” runner-up.
Following the contest, Polar Bear Plungers and spectators followed the whimsical sounds of the Fralinger String Band to the beach for the Plunge, which benefits community events hosted by the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization.
From left, Mike Givens, Mike Monichetti, Kate O’Brien, Mike Johnson and Jimmy Bennett pose with a check representing the funds the king and queen raised for the Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism.
On Sunday, more than 3,000 participants gathered on the Promenade for the Mike’s Seafood Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism. The 5K run and 1-mile walk raised more than $100,000 to benefit Autism Speaks, special-services schools, autism support groups, and families of special-needs children in Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland counties.
“This was the best year yet,” said Monichetti, the event organizer and owner of Mike’s Seafood. “I never thought that this event would turn into what it has. When Mike Givens and I started this 10 years ago, we just wanted to raise a couple hundred dollars for autism and now we have thousands of people participating and we’re raising more than $100,000 for autism. It just shows there are a lot of big hearts out there and I can’t thank the sponsors, participants and volunteers enough. It’s just a great day for Sea Isle City and a great day to raise money and awareness for children with disabilities.”
Trophies were presented to the top three male finishers (Zach Miller, Alexander Ermold and Marquis Cox) and the top three female finishers (Bridgette Higgins, Susan Reich and Sarah Tull). The top three in each age category received medals. Families enjoyed the run/walk after-party at La Costa featuring family entertainment, a buffet, and the awards presentation. Donations are still being accepted at polarbearrunwalkforautism.com.
After the party, more than 30 teams took part in the 2nd Annual Polar Bear Cornhole Tournament to benefit the Run/Walk for Autism, hosted by the South Jersey Cornhole League and La Costa. First place went to Joe DeRosa and Tony Rodrigues, who won four lower-level tickets to an Eagles game. Amanda Plant and George Braker placed second and received a pair of Eagles tickets.
Save the date for the 25th Annual Polar Bear Plunge weekend, Feb. 15-17, 2019!