Local Relay for Life group raises money via polar plunge
by Chase Collum
Jan 07, 2015 | 4265 views | 0 0 comments | 149 149 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every year, brave souls line up on the beach at Coney Island on New Year’s Day to take part in traditional Polar Bear Plunge.

This year was no different, but one group, the Bergen Beach, Mill Basin and Marine Park Relay for Life team, made a debut at the event so they could get a strong start on the fundraising year to come.

Kathie Smith, who lost her father to cancer and found great comfort in Relay for Life events while she was in college at Baruch in Manhattan, founded the Bergen Beach Relay for Life team about three years ago.

“Basically,” Smith said, “our purpose for our Relay group to participate in the Polar Bear plunge was to raise awareness and to show we will do whatever it takes to fight cancer!”

Smith’s team of about a dozen participants was able to raise about $180 toward the group’s Relay for Life goal, as well as another $180 for Camp Sunshine, the official charity of the Polar Bear Plunge.

The next item on the agenda for Smith’s Relay team is a joint Zumba 4 Life event being held on Sunday, January 11, at noon at the Saint Bernard Gymnasium, located at 2030 East 69th Street, in cooperation with Relay for Life of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights, and the Williamsburg/Greenpoint team.

At 1 p.m. on the same day, the Relay for Life team from Rockaway, Breezy Point and Broad Channel will be hosting a sister Zumbathon event at All Seasons Retreat, located at 181 Beach 116th Street on the second floor.

Joe Gillette, who helped organize the plunge and both Zumba events, said, “the plunge was amazing.”

“It was funny,” he said, “I was a big believer in this line of thought that as long as you stayed in the water it was the air that was really cold, but now I can dispel that myth. That water is absolutely freezing.

Gillette believes that with the success of this year’s plunge, they’re going to be able to bring an even bigger team out next year.

“Normally that’s a free event, but we thought we’d try to put a charitable twist on it and it worked out great,” he said.

Now that he’s done “Freezin’ 4 a Reezin,” Gillette is looking forward to the many Fight Back with Fitness events that are going to be taking place in Queens, Brooklyn, Syracuse, Grand Isle, and even Pennsylvania, all of which stemmed from a program he initiated three years ago.

“For the last couple of years, we’ve been doing fitness events to promote cancer prevention and a healthy lifestyle,” Gillette said. “Now, we’ve taken a micro local event and turned it into a bigger event.”

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