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INTERVIEW: Hilton Crosby On Heart Of The Hamptons’ Unique 17th Annual Polar Bear Plunge

T.J. Clemente

This year's Plunge will look a little different. (Courtesy Photo)

Just when we all thought it was safe to go back into the water, the 17th Annual Polar Bear Plunge, an event to raise money for those in need, will have a few new twists due to COVID-19. Hilton Crosby, the Executive Director of Heart of the Hamptons, a charity founded by the community of Southampton, was extremely enthusiastic as he explained this year's Polar Bear Plunge. Due to COVID-19, it will be radically different.

Crosby explained, "The whole aim is to raise money to support our year-round program of providing meals to those in need. We have seen that number nearly triple this year."

He went on to explain how the 2020 virtual Polar Bear Plunge is going to be a shared event through individual plunge videos. "What we are doing this year," he said, "is we are adapting pretty much everything to keep people safe, yet still garner support to raise the funds so we can continue helping the community at the level that we have."

The organization's reach has increased exponentially this year because of the pandemic. "Heart of the Hamptons in 2019 distributed about 65,000 meals worth of food. So far, in 2020, we have distributed 175,000-plus meals worth of food. That's a 300 percent increase in demand for food pantry and assistance service programs across the board. So, this year's Polar Bear Plunge could not be more important. Our goal is $250,000 - whereas last year it was $125,000, which we met and surpassed by raising $150,000. This year, the Plunge is different, one that is virtual and socially distant. The Plunge will start virtually online, where people will register for the Plunge and then record a video of support for Heart of the Hamptons."

Plungers can get creative with their plunge location. "You can do a video of yourself plunging in your pool, filling up a baby pool with ice and water and jumping in it or jumping in the bay," Crosby relayed. "We are encouraging people to do it safely, but creatively and show your support for the community. We are going to try and get all these videos in by Monday [December 7]. Then we are going to piece them all together to create a video to be able to virtually plunge together. That's one component of the plunge."

What comes next is most interesting. Crosby shared, "Traditionally, folks that register as plungers donate/gift $25. This will be our 17th year, and during all these years, we have done a signature hat that is different every year that we distribute to the plungers at the beach after. The way we are going to distribute those hats this year is a little different. The hats are traditionally brought there and given out before the Plunge [at Coopers Beach]. Now, this year, you [plungers] pick them up at Coopers Beach from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. We are also planning to do a drive-thru at Coopers Beach on Saturday, December 12th. Before the drive-thru, we are organizing a safe car parade."

Crosby continued, "The parade is really meant to create awareness for Heart of the Hamptons existence in our village and a show of support for people who want to decorate their vehicles with shoe polish, flags, etc. It's kind of like your vehicle will be your costume for the parade. We are going to all meet at the Southampton Train Station at 9:00 a.m., and the parade is going to be down to Coopers Beach - with movement starting at 9:30 a.m. and the drive-thru is going to kick-off at 10:00 a.m. The parade is for people who want to join in to participate in the drive-thru. However, you can just come to the drive-thru. We are going to try to get most of the parade traffic through the drive-thru from 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. We are going to try and move people along, insisting they wear their masks when interacting with people and the volunteers."

Because this whole event is still very fluid and dependent upon the weather, Crosby stressed, "Everyone must pay attention to emails for any updates if the weather is horrible or the winds are crazy."

He also wanted to express his gratitude towards this year's sponsors. "We have sponsorship levels this year at bronze, silver, gold and platinum. We are happy to say we are getting a lot of support through this and through the local businesses," he said. "We have been running the campaign for about 12 days and we are up to about $110,000. All the money goes directly to help our programs."

For registering and all up to the minute information about this year's Polar Bear Plunge visit heartofthehamptons.org.

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