“When we were kids, you’d never wear a shirt with any other town on it,” said Long Beach Polar Bear Club Co-Founder Pete Meyers. “With the Long Beach Polar Bear Club, we see it everywhere. Everyone on Long Beach and all around New York shows their pride.”
Meyers is, of course, referring to the annual Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash, which raises money for the Make-A-Wish Metro New York Foundation and helps fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. The event, organized by the Long Beach Polar Bear Club, has raised more than $6 million to date.
The first splash, in 1998, was a two-man event: Co-founders Kevin McCarthy and Meyers jumped into the Atlantic Ocean on the morning of the Super Bowl. They turned the plunge into a charity event in honor of their friend Mike Bradley’s son, Paulie, who died of cancer at age 4.
One area of excitement among supporters every year, Meyers said, is the event’s array of apparel and color selection. Over time, Meyers explained, Polar Bear swag has become a must-have among participants. Members of the McCarthy, Meyers and Bradley families convene to decide on featured items and color scheme.
“People get really excited to find out what the new color is,” he said. “I’ve had people say their closets are full of Polar Bear items. It’s a badge of honor that they supported the cause.”
This year’s main color is grey, featuring red and blue writing, Meyers said. Items will include baseball and knit hats, sweat and yoga pants, sweatshirts and long-sleeve T-shirts, hoodies, towels, car magnets and more.
With the Super Bowl Splash set for Feb. 3, Meyers said the hope is to raise more crucial funds than last year’s event, while uniting thousands across New York. Whether people hit the beach or boardwalk, either to take the plunge in the Atlantic Ocean or to proudly sport their new swag in show of support, it’s all for a worthwhile cause.
“The event keeps growing — people come together,” he said. “We have ‘Wish Kids’ that come to the event, we hear their stories and how their lives have been impacted in a positive way. Whether in the water or on the beach, we want to unite everyone, have a good time and support these kids with life-threatening illnesses.”
Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Long Beach Magazine.