By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Going for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean in January may sound a bit daunting, but those who are planning to participate in the 13th annual Ancient Order of Hibernians Polar Plunge for Catholic Education are ready to take on the freezing temperatures and generate support for their beloved Catholic schools.
The 2019 Polar Plunge for Catholic Education is scheduled for Jan. 27 and coincides with the start of the celebration of National Catholic Schools Week. It will take place at the Sea Bright Municipal Beach with registration from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and plunge time set for 2 p.m. After the plunge, all participants – plungers as well as supporters – are invited to a reception at nearby Tommy’s Tap House.
“Our goal is to preserve Catholic schools so parents can choose them for their children,” said Jim Shaw, event chairman and member of St. Mary Parish, Middletown.
“We are creating an opportunity for the schools to build their community, develop projects that help them compete and create awareness and interest in them,” Shaw said.
Reflecting on the past 12 years, Shaw explained that the Hibernians’ event has raised about $1.2 million, with 100 percent of the money being retained by the participating schools. In addition, the Hibernians also raise funds each year to cover the cost of hosting the event for the schools, and for necessary items such as police and water rescue personnel, first aid, insurance and entertainment.
For the 2019 Polar Plunge, Shaw said he expects 24 schools from around the state to participate, with the majority being from the Trenton Diocese.
In St. Mary School, Middletown, principal Craig Palmer said the Polar Plunge has helped raise funds to purchase items and resources that otherwise would exceed the school’s budget. To date, the school has installed Wifi throughout the building and climate control units in each classroom and hallway, replaced an oil boiler with a high efficiency natural gas boiler and built a state-of-the-art science lab.
Acknowledging that the Polar Plunge also serves as a community-building event for school families, Palmer said that each year, the number of participants from St. Mary School and onlookers has increased. In addition, the events held leading up to the Polar Plunge prove to be exciting, since a number of grade-level and family competitions are held to generate funds. The school even adopted its own Polar Bear mascot named “Shiver.”
“The Polar Plunge event serves as a reminder to all of just how precarious a place we all seem to be in these days, in regard to finances and the cost of educating a child in 2019,” Palmer said.
Similar to Palmer, Kathleen Smith, PTA president for Holy Cross School, Rumson, said the Polar Plunge highlights the importance of Catholic education and provides an opportunity for the community to come together in a fun way and show its support.
“Today, it seems more important than ever to support one another and our schools,” Smith said, adding that funds raised by the Polar Plunge will benefit school initiatives including security, facility and curriculum needs.
In preparation for the Polar Plunge, Smith said school organizers are planning competitions with teams and prizes. Also, since the Polar Plunge coincides with the first day of Catholic Schools Week, the day will begin with a school Mass.
“Holy Cross is thrilled to be part of the AOH Polar Plunge!” Smith said.