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Plunging for a Cause in the Town of North Hempstead

Long Islanders brave cold waters to raise money for the Special Olympics.

North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington was filled with Long Islanders on Saturday morning who were eager to plunge into cold water; between 500 and 700 people are estimated to have taken part in the seventh annual Polar Plunge to raise money for the Special Olympics, according to a spokesman.

For Marc Slivka of Adelphi's Phi Sigma Kappa, this is his second time taking the plunge. This dive is bittersweet as it's his senior year and therefore the last time he is doing so for his fraternity.

Two years ago when Slivka previously dove into these waters, the fraternity raised $600. As of Saturday morning, the group had raised $250 for this year, but Slivka said the group will continue to raise money and hopes to get $500.

His fraternity brother Edward Gutteber described the state of the water the last time the group plunged as feeling "like 1,000 knives going into your leg." Despite that, the brothers are back for what Slivka called "a great cause."

The fraternity's charity affiliation is similar to that of the Polar Plunge. Slivka watched a golfer with special needs play alongside an Adelphi golfer two years ago and was struck by how the two were equally good despite one's adversity.

"I want to give back to them so that they can do what they do," Slivka said.

For the four members of the Bikini Bottom Barracudas team -- Steven Heuskin, Matthew Heuskin, Shelby Alanis and Joey Feliciano -- their motivation to plunge is eight-year-old Anthony Lanzarone who has autism.

Maria Heuskin of Bay Shore, who was cheering on the group, said they discussed in the car ride to the event what it would be like in the cold.

"You're suffering for a little while," Heuskin told the people in her car, "but these people live with their disabilities for their lives."

Kerri Abberton of New Hyde Park, has a trick for dealing with the cold -- run in and out relatively quickly. She added that once you're in the water, you're pretty numb.

Another tip is to have bathrobes on the nearby fence to warm up in as well as fuzzy socks and sweatpants, Abberton added. Seat warmers in the car are also helpful, she added.

This is Abberton and her mother Kathy's fourth time taking the plunge. Krystine Abberton has done this six times. For Kathy Abberton, she figured after seeing Krystine do this that, "if she can do it, I can do it."

Fourteen-year-olds Katie Stagnari and Shannon Murphy of Mineola plunged for the first time this year. Murphy was nervous about the cold while Stagnari was "excited to go in." Stagnari looked forward to running and putting her head in the water.

Molloy College students Elizabeth Moulder, Kayla Evanosky and Catherine Russini of Wantagh, West Babylon and Westbury respectively were plunging this year as part of their community service for school. Moulder said the trick is to go in and out quickly.

The amount of money raised at the plunge will be tallied within a few days, a Town of North Hempstead spokesman said.

Update: According to the Town of North Hemsptead, this year's polar plunge raised approximately $70,000.

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