Spring 2019

Polar Bear Plunge Celebrates Milestone;
Run/Walk Raises More Than $100,000 for Autism

By Joanna Heston

The Monichetti family at the Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism (from left): Luke,
Mary Kate, Mikey, Kara Mia, Jeannie and Mike.

Kristina Hernandez and Annemari Geletka enjoying the pre-plunge festivities.

The Sea Isle City Tourism Commission was skeptical at first when Dr. Irene Jameson brought up the idea of an event that involved people taking a dip in the ocean in the dead of winter. But she clearly was on to something, and on Presidents Day weekend, Sea Isle celebrated its 25th annual Polar Bear Plunge.  Since the inaugural event, the Polar Bear Plunge has grown from hosting a couple dozen people for the chilly plunge to more than 2,100 registered plungers in 2019.


“Looking back, it’s hard to believe we have been hosting the Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City for 25 years,” said James Bennett, the event organizer. “When our original Polar Bear Queen Irene Jameson brought the idea to the Tourism Commission, we all thought it was crazy. But I took the plunge with her that very first year and we never looked back. To see how much the event has grown and how many people come to Sea Isle City in the middle of February to enjoy a weekend full of activities is really gratifying, and I love working on this event every year.”


Above, Katie Smith and Laura Seay running out of the water after their 17th plunge. Below, the 2019 Polar Bear Royal Family
(from left) Princess Madison Majors, King Jim Bogan, Queen Margie Kirkpatrick and Prince Andrew Mostak.


During the milestone anniversary weekend, thousands of visitors spent the weekend in Sea Isle City to enjoy the weekend’s events which kicked off on Friday night with crowning of the Polar Bear Royal Family. Hopeful teenagers ages 12-16 graced the stage during the Prince and Princess contest, which had 11 contestants this year. Andrew Mostak was named 2019 Prince and Madison Majors was crowned the 2019 Princess. Mike Monichetti, of Mike’s Seafood, donated $250 cash prizes to both the Prince and Princess, as well as a tub of Johnson’s popcorn to all of the contestants. Colleen Buch donated the royal crowns. Following a lively performance by The Insiders Band, Bennett emceed the King and Queen contest. Having raised nearly $18,000 for the Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism, Jim Bogan and Margie Kirkpatrick were crowned as the 2019 Polar Bear King and Queen.


Saturday’s events began with the costume contest at noon. With almost 20 groups competing in the small-, medium- and large-group categories, this year’s contest featured hot-topic themed costumes and silly dance moves. “Life Alert” won first place in the individual/small group category and “Coors Light” won second place. In the medium category, “Whack a Mole” took home first place and “God Save the Queen” was second. “Sea Isle Slice” won first place in the large group category and “Disney Princesses” was second. Best In Show was awarded to “Plungeopoly 25th edition.” “Noah’s Ark” took home this year’s special grand prize: a trip for four to tour the Samuel Adams Brewery, complete with an overnight stay. The grand prize was one of the special additions to this year’s plunge in order to help celebrate its milestone.


Presenting the Overall Male and Female Awards. From left Jimmy Bennett, Zach Miller, Sanela Saracina,
Mike Givens and Mike Monichetti.


At 2pm, a sea of people crowded the beaches from 38th and 40th streets to watch as plungers took a chilly dip in the Atlantic Ocean. The Fralinger String Band treated the thousands of people to a whimsical and wonderful performance from the Promenade before everyone went back to La Costa for live entertainment and the costume contest awards.


The next day, more than 3,000 people participated in the 11th annual Mike’s Seafood Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism. The event, organized by Mike and Jeannie Monichetti, raised more than $100,000 for autism, with donations still coming in daily.


“We are so thankful to the thousands of people who come out to participate in our Run/Walk every year in the middle of winter,” Mike Monichetti said. “It’s grown to become such an incredible family-friendly event and we couldn’t do it without the support of the participants, workers and volunteers. We are so fortunate to be able to raise funds and awareness for children with disabilities.”


Anthony and Sandra Martinez of Team Anthony Rocks!


Zach Miller, 35, was the first man to cross the finish line in the 5K run for the fifth consecutive year. Sanela Saracina, 33, was the first woman. Alexander Ermold came in second and Tyler Greene placed third among the men. Stephanie Vandenberg was the women’s runner-up and Devon Pytel was third.


After the race, participants and families were treated to a huge continental buffet at La Costa Complex, where they also had a chance to buy raffle tickets and enjoy the children’s activities. The prizes included lower-level seats to Flyers, Eagles and Phillies games, concert tickets, and gift certificates to local restaurants. Donations are still being accepted online at polarbearrunwalkforautism.com.


Runners take off at the starting line during the 11th Annual Polar Bear Run/Walk for Autism.


The 3rd annual Polar Bear Cornhole Tournament was held immediately after the Run/Walk for Autism. More than 60 teams joined in on the fun event to raise money for the Run/Walk. “Bag Assassins” Ken Wnek and Pete Peters took home the first-place prize of $400, Joe and Leslie Adcock placed second and received $200, and “The Jays” finished third for the $100 prize. Prize money was donated by Mike’s Seafood, which also contributed a hot buffet for the teams to enjoy while playing cornhole.

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