Inaugural Polar Plunge benefits Communities in Schools 


On New Year’s Day, men, women and children will flock to Wrightsville’s Stone Street to take a dip in the chilly ocean. The inaugural Polar Plunge will benefit Communities in Schools, a nonprofit organization that supports at-risk youth in New Hanover and Pender counties.

Town Manager Tim Owens stated in a Dec. 8 email that the plunge’s original location, Salisbury Street (Mercer’s Pier), would be more suitable to the event due to the ample parking spaces, public restrooms and sufficient space for emergency access. But others, including event director Bethany Leighton, insist that Stone Street (Station One) is an ideal location because of its proximity to local businesses.

Some local businesses near Stone Street, including King Neptune Restaurant, are sponsoring the Polar Plunge.

“The idea is that people will come out, stay for lunch and support those businesses,” Leighton said.

The festivities will begin at 10 a.m. with a steel drum band, corn hole competition, a photo booth and children’s activities. Coffee, hot chocolate and pastries, and a post-swim rinsing station will be complementary for participants.  At 11 a.m., participants will run into the ocean.

Those who do not wish to swim can donate to the cause in honor of an individual or team participating in the event.

Oceanic Seafood Restaurant will provide prizes for category winners. The youngest swimmer will win an Oceanic kids’ meal, a logo towel and a Frisbee. The participant who traveled the farthest will win a $60 Oceanic gift card. The participant who raises the most money will be awarded dinner for four at the restaurant. Each swimmer will receive a T-shirt.

The funds raised will help pay the salary of the Communities in Schools site coordinator at Williston Middle School, which is not paid by the federal, state and city grants the organization receives. The coordinator helps students who have inconsistent attendance, discipline issues or other problems that inhibit their academic performance obtain the resources necessary to succeed. The Communities in Schools also has full-time staff members at New Hanover High School, Snipes Academy of Arts and Design, Penderlea Elementary School and Cape Fear Middle School.

Communities in Schools’ programs include the Mary S. Mosley Career Readiness Academy, a non-traditional high school that partners each student with a mentor who monitors academic growth and a 10-week tutoring program that targets third- and sixth-graders who have been identified by their teachers as not likely to pass state-administered end-of-grade tests.

Nearly 20 participants have registered for the 2016 Polar Plunge so far. Leighton hopes to have 300 swimmers participate.

“It’s been a fun, successful event in other places, and we’re excited to try it here. We hope to do it for many years to come,” Leighton said.

The participation fee is $25. To register, visit

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