Polar Bear News
for details or more info, email buell@rcn.com or call 917 533 3568

March 15, 2009
East Meets West at Coney Island

It was a historic day for both the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and Coney Island when the Club hosted 31 swimmers from the China Winter Swimming Delegation. Eight China winter swimming clubs were represented, including 2 Olympic torch bearers.

After many photos with the banners of the respective organizations, the international swimmers took to the brisk 42 degree waters in a not-your-usual-act-of-diplomacy to celebrate winter swimming, and inspire like minded folk world-wide. Afterwards, a ceremony was held with speeches while the organizations exchanged gifts and toasted each other as well as our good fortune to be able to participate in such a historic event.

The NY Aquarium provided space to change and meet and did an outstanding job of making the international visitors feel warm and welcome. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is indebted to the Aquarium for their ongoing support.



February 28, 2009
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises Hosts “Naked” Polar Bear Cruise

In Alliance with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, Circle Line Set Sail for a Winter Swimsuit Cruise, with Proceeds Benefitting Local Animals at the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, operator of the city’s most famous sightseeing tour, hosted a “Naked” (i.e. swimsuit) Polar Bear Cruise on Saturday, February 28, 2009 to benefit local New York City animals. Teaming up with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, passengers were encouraged to strip down to their bathing suits and enjoy a frosty ride, with proceeds going to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which oversees the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium.

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club and Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises and cares deeply about its fellow New York City attractions. After learning that the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium were subjected to massive state budget cuts in 2009, Circle Line sought to fashion a unique winter cruise to lend them a paw. With the help of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and other New Yorkers with thick hearts and thick skins, we hope to raise enough money to prevent local animals from losing their jobs too.


December 11, 2008
Polar Bear Club Walk unveiled


A very special day for the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. After 105 years at Coney Island, the club was recognized with the naming of Polar Bear Club Walk on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. In a ceremony presided over by NYC Councilman Domenic Recchia, and attended by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club was cited for it's continued presence at Coney Island and the charitable work the club performs in strengthening the Coney Island community. Our thanks to Councilman Recchia, Borough President Marty Markowitz and our former president, Louis Scarcella for making this possible.

Polar Bear Club Walk, unveiled December 11, 2008

Left to right: Tony Nastro; Vice President (blue cap), Marty
Markowitz (beige coat), Domenic Reccha (beige coat, blue hat),
Dennis Thomas; president (white hat), Tom Mcgann; Treasurer,
in front: Capri Djatiasmoro, Club Secretary.


New Year's Day 2009 is right around the corner!


Join the Coney Island Polar Club for our traditional New Year's Day celebration. Meet us on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue at noon with your bathing suit, some surf boots or old sneakers and plenty of warm clothes. Changing facilites are provided by the NYC Parks Department. We swim at 1:00 pm sharp. Arrive early to take advantage of all the pre-swim activites.

With support from the NY Aquarium, we proudly partner with Camp Sunshine,
a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. All participants are encouraged to make a generous pledge to this worthwhile organization that supports many New York families.

Make a donation to Camp Sunshine and receive a free breakfast and all-day admission to the New York Aquarium.

Special this year: Polar Bear Club member Strongman Steve Ekstance, who recently pulled a dumptruck by his teeth and dead lifted 1000 lbs. in support of Camp Sunshine, will be appearing on the boardwalk at noon performing similar feats. He is simply awesome.

Pledge online: www.freezinforareason.com or in person on New Year’s Day.

Steve Ekstance, Coney Island Polar Bear Club Member and
world famous Strongman bending an iron bar with his teeth,
summer 2008, at Coney Island. Watch him perform similar feats
on New Year's Day, and pledge generously to Camp Sunshine.

August, 2008
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club Honors Kindred
Spirits in Antarctica


Pete Cammarata, stationed at McMurdo Staion take the plunge

With much envy and respect, the Coney Island Polar Club learned of some very hearty souls stationed in Antarctica who braved very frigid conditions to enjoy some winter bathing. In a tradition put on by New Zealanders at Scott base, a hole is cut into the sea ice to enjoy a spirited plunge in 28 degree fahrenheit water with and air temperature of about -40 degrees celcius. Congratulations to all the participants. The only thing missing is Coney Island beach sand.

July 27, 2008
Coney Island Polar Bear Strongman Steve Ekstance Performs Astounding Feats of Strength for a Worthy Cause


Steve Eckstance bending an iron bar with his neck

The Coney Island Polar bear club has been sponsoring Camp Sunshine at its annual New Year's Day plunge. Camp Sunshine provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families through various stages of a child’s illness. Organized by Louis Scarcella, former club president, with support from Local Dock Builders Union #1456, Steve Eckstance, world famous strongman and Coney Island Polar Bear Club member put on a show of astounding feats of strenght and human endurance at Coney Island to further support Camp Sunshine

Deadlifting 1000 pounds, bending a steel bar around his neck, bending a coin with his teeth, and finally pulling a dump truck with his teeth, we honor Steve and encourage everyone to support the great work of Camp Sunshine. Contributions can be made at www.campsunshine.org

April, 2008
Brooklyn Burough President Marty Markowitz Honors
New Polar Bears



Brooklyn Bourough President Marty Markowitz, long time supporter of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, came down to the beach in late April to congratulate new members of the club after their completion of 12 swims during the season. Our thanks to him for showing up, and congratulations to all our new members.

New Year's Day 2008

Coney Island Polar Bear Club President,
Louie Scarcella with Sienna Cavallo,
Camp Sunshine attendee.

Once again, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club would like to thank the thousands of brave swimmers and spectators who showed up for our annual New Year's Day Swim, a New York tradition since 1903. The event raised over $30,000 for Camp Sunshine to send children with serious illnesses and their families to Camp Sunshine, a place of respite, support, joy and hope. We send our deep gratitude to all our sponsors and attendees who supported Camp Sunshine with generous donations.

Get ready for New Year's Day 2008

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is proud to continue its long tradition of celebrating the new year with a bracing dip in the Atlantic Ocean. For the second year in a row, we will be hosting Camp Sunshine. Last year the swim raised over $25,000 to support their activities, we hope that generous New Yorkers will help us double this amount for 2008

Get ready for New Year's Day 2008

This year the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is proud to partner with Camp Sunshine for our 1st swim of the new year. A tradition since 1903, all of the people of New York City and beyond are again invited to Coney Island on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, swim time 1:00pm, January 1st, 2008.

Nestled alongside the shores of beautiful Sebago Lake, Camp Sunshine provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families through various stages of a child’s illness. The year-round program is free of charge to all families, and includes 24-hour onsite medical and psychosocial support. Bereavement groups are also offered for families who have lost a child to an illness.

We encourage all attendees to support this worthwhile cause. You can either pledge online at the Freezin' for a Reason website, or make your donations at the swim on New Year's Day. All supporters will be entitled to a free breakfast at the New York Aquarium as well as the satisfaction of supporting the families of children with life threatening illnesses.

A pledge is not mandatory for attending the swim. Again, all are welcome to take part in this New York tradition.


April 23, 2006
Polar Bears Honor NYC Police Heroes


Left to right: Louis Scarcella, Club President, behind him Tom McGann,
Treasurer, Brian Sheehy (in red) with wife, Brian Vaughan and family,
Dennis Thomas, Vice President, and Capri Djatiasmoro, Secretary

On March 23, 2006 NYC Police Officer Brian Sheehy and Sergeant Brian Vaughan plunged into the frigid waters off Staten Island to save the life of an 8 month old baby boy. The father who had just stabbed the mother of his 3 children jumped into the water carrying his infant son. While the father did not survive, the officers did manage to bring the child to safety after jumping into the water wearing only their uniforms.

Upon getting out of the water, Officer Sheehy remarked "Frigid. I could be a member of the Polar Bear Club now."

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club honored these brave officers the next week in a ceremony at which they were awarded lifetime honorary membership in the Club and their wives were presented with donations from the club to the charity of their choice. Sheehy and Vaughan then joined in for an arctic plunge with the Club, this time wearing bathing suits.

Soldiers Ring in the New Year With a Splash

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club salutes our soldiers in Iraq as they join us in the grand tradition of the New Year's plunge.

Story and photos by Spc. Timothy Tamburello
138th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

MOSUL, Iraq (Jan. 1, 2006) -- "Three, two, one," was the countdown for the Soldiers and civilians of FOB Courage to ring in the New Year with a big splash - in an ice cold pool that is!

These brave Soldiers and civilians were taking part in the annual polar bear swim in the palace pool at FOB Courage. This was the first time these 15 "polar bears" took part in a tradition that tests one's daring with a jump into a swimming pool of frigid water.

"I heard they were doing the swim and I thought it would be an awesome way to start out my New Year," said Spc. Richard Vogt, print journalist, 138th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Before they jumped into the freezing water, they stood anxiously at the edge of the pool dipping their toes in to feel how cold the water actually was.

"I just want to get it over with already," said Vogt as he cringed waiting for the countdown to jump in. "It's probably colder out here than it is in the water."



When the countdown was finished everyone jumped into the pool without hesitation.

With just as much time that it took everyone to jump in, it also took only three seconds before they climbed out, running frantically to get their towels to warm up and dry off.

After the initial jump was over the bets started. Civilian contractors egged on their buddies to go in for a second dip. A couple of the contractors were up for the challenge and decided to submerge in the icy waters again.

"Who can turn down a dare like that," said one civilian contractor. "I would look bad if I didn't do it."

The palace pool, which Saddam Hussein reportedly swam in, is open to Soldiers and civilians during the summer months but tradition gives it one winter day for anyone who wants to start the New Year out with an icy cold dip.

January 1, 2006 New Year's Day Update
The Coney Island Polar Bears wish to thank the thousands of New Yorkers and other attendees for making the 103rd annual New Year Day's swim a rousing success.

This year we again hosted the Special Olympics New York, raising $5000 for this organization. Many swimmers made a pledge to the Special Olympics, enjoyed a hearty pre-swim breakfast at the New York Aquarium while enjoying the penguin and walrus feeding and sea lions show. Brooklyn's Hungry March Band provided their own special lively music to add to the spirit of the day.

The Coney Island Polar Bears offer a special thanks to all the sponsors for their support: Special Olympics New York, the New York Aquarium, Jimmy Dean, Junior's Cheesecake, Coca Cola, Statewide Coffee, Crowley Foods, Aunt Butchie Cakes, Spirit Sense Center, Steve's Grill House, and Cropsey Bagel.

Polar Bear Bay??
Stay tuned for details!

On the Look Out for Lifeguard Recruits
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is aiding the Park's Department in their recruiting drive for Lifeguards for New York City beaches. All interested in the free training program and summer employment should call our hotline; 718 356 7741, email us at: LNS92@aol.com
or dial 311.

Nov. 6, 2005
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club starts its official swim season. The NYC Parks Department will be on hand to return the 'key to the beach' to the club that has ruled the beach during the winter season for over 100 years.

Nov. 12, 2005
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club supports the 5th Annual Swim for the Future to raise money for The Andrew Fisher and Doug Irgang Scholarship Fund, founded in memory of two competitive swimmers who lost their lives on 9/11. Participate in this swimming fundraiser to swim as many laps as you can during one and a half hours. There will be events for the whole family. Come and enjoy the commemorative ceremony to honor Andrew Fisher and Doug Irgang, the scholarship recipients, and the swimmers who raised the most money. Log on to www.swimforthefuture.org to learn more about the event.

Sunday Nov.13, 2005,
The Cultural Research Divers and Friends of the Boardwalk along with the Historical Diving Society brought the famed Mark V dive helmet and suit to our swim. Club President Louis Scarcella took to the sea for a dive. For more pictures and info, go to the Cultural Research Divers

Coney Island Polar Bear President, Louis Scarcella
suits up in a Mark V diving suit for a dry plunge
with the bears.

A hero in the ranks
We congratulate Gordon Gattsek, our club photographer and enthusiastic Polar Bear, for his heroic service Friday, June 17. On his way home from active duty at the 369th Armory, Gordon assisted in the rescue operation following a helicopter crash in the East River near 23rd St. Gordon will be receiving a NYS Military Commendation Medal for service above and beyond the call of duty and saving a life. Good work, Gordon.

Gordon Gattsek, right, at the scene of the rescue

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