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Hundreds Swarm Coopers Beach For Eighth Annual Polar Bear Plunge For Hunger

Originally Posted: December 12, 2011

Edward Callaghan

Mr. Polar Bear and emcee, WPPB's Bonnie Grice. (Katie Paez)

EMT Town Volunteer Jimmy Mack. (Katie Paez)

Southampton - Coopers Beach in Southampton Village was jammed on Saturday, December 10 as hundreds turned out for the Human Resources of the Hamptons 8th Annual Polar Bear Plunge for Hunger. Part Halloween parade and part Mardi Gras Fest, the annual ocean dip is always highlighted by a cast of costumed characters who each year try to out-do their previous looks.

WPPB's popular on air personality Bonnie Grice in a midriff baring bikini top was once again mistress of ceremonies of the beach frolic and kept the crowd on edge until the Colonial Militia Men blasted the cannon and Mr. Polar Bear (Tony Meyers, husband of HRH President Nanette Meyers) dropped the red flag. With water temperatures at 58 degrees and air at 44 degrees, the swimmers were braver than usual and hundreds raced down the beach into the chilly surf.

As is their tradition "Bad Santa" - Tony Valle and "Good Santa" Michael Paez were first in and last out as wave after wave of participants plunged into the surf, splashed around a bit and then made a mad dash for waiting robes and blankets. When Paez finally emerged, his wife Cathy was waiting with towels to hustle him home to get ready for their annual Polar Bear Plunge Survivors holiday party.

Zach Epley, Nick Epley, Kyle Holmes and Mayor Mark Epley. (Katie Paez)

Ever dignified Southampton Village Councilman Rich Yastrzemski made his plunge in a formal business suit and yellow power tie. Village Mayor Mark Epley, his sons Zach and Nick and their friend Kyle Holmes came as hard rockers KISS complete with full makeup, leather outfits and attitude to spare with their tongues sticking out! His honor made a truly awesome Gene Simmons. Southampton EMT volunteer Jimmy Mack outdid himself this year with a mermaid evening gown, blond Marilyn Monroe wig and platform heels. Mack joked about how hard it was to find great high heels in a size 13 in Southampton so he trekked into New York for a visit to Abracadabra to find his glam gown and pumps. There were also sleek penguins, elves, a tiger and even a large M & M splashing in the waves.

There were a number of first timers as usual, including young Emmett Cummings and his pal Paul Murphy from Shelter Island Elementary School. Freshman Class at Southampton High School, the Class of 2015 was well represented with Emily Goleski, Sarah Pierson, Johanna Moore, Madison Kelly, Kaley Kerr, Joseph Strassfield and William Raynor. Upper classman, junior Eric Goleski led the troupe.

A cool Santa. (Katie Paez)

And there are perils in being a houseguest in Southampton at this time, Alex Douzet, visiting from Europe was roped into "plunging" by his hosts and reveled in the experience.

Once on shore again, the hardy swimmers with teeth a-chattering jammed into the beach house for some much needed warming and a tummy satisfying breakfast. Hamptons Bagels provided the bagels with a schmear. Keith Davies of The Golden Pear was serving up their renowned Chili and there were hot dogs and doughnuts from Catena's. But it was the piping hot chocolate and coffee that had everyone lining up first.

The annual Polar Bear Plunge drew hundreds of participants. (Katie Paez)

All of this fun had a very serious purpose - to help those less fortunate than others and to make sure that this holiday time there would be a bountiful meal on the table and gifts for the family under the tree for so many of our neighbors facing tough times. This year Mary Ann Tupper, executive director of Human Resources of the Hamptons, one of the hardest working women on the East End will oversee the delivery of 2,500 gift and food baskets to needy families in our community and is still hoping to collect more turkeys in time for the holiday.

The mission of Human Resources of the Hamptons is to help those in need, without discrimination, including those who face poverty, hunger, illness or homelessness. HRH seeks to raise community awareness of the disenfranchised among us and to provide help in a dignified manner that lends a "hand up," not a "hand out."

Over the years the need in the community has unfortunately grown and the organization, known as Human Resources of the Hamptons, now provides assistance to over 6,000 people per year, from newborns to elderly. With only two paid employees, this organization is able to do so much with the help of over 120 volunteers. The large headquarters at 168 Hill Street in Southampton, and maintains a food pantry, food storage facilities, free clothing and household distribution, crisis intervention and outreach offices, and houses the handicapped equipped van that provides free medical transportation.

Members of the Village Parks and Recreation Crew were also on hand. (Katie Paez)


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