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Vogelsang Takes The Plunge To Support New Jersey’s Special Olympics

By April 23, 2024June 19th, 2024Company News
vfs polar plunge

Throughout the year Vogelsang Fastener participates in various community events and fundraisers as part of our mission to support and give back to our local communities. February 2024 marked the 9th anniversary of our participation in the Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside Heights.

Each year the Polar Bear Plunge challenges thousands of brave souls to take the plunge into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean to support the mission of the Special Olympics in New Jersey.

Nick Penney, National Sales Manager, has been the brave soul representing Vogelsang at the plunge each year. Along with his wife Dorothy, who doubles as his photographer-in-chief from the shore, Nick and a supporting crew of Vogelsang employees gathers at the seaside each February.

“We usually wear something fun,” Nick says, “Like Hawaiian shirts or flamingo hats. This year it’s flamingos.”

Nick Penney, left, in flamingo attire, accompanied by his wife Dorothy.

Hawaiian shirts and flamingo hats aren’t the most unusual sight at the plunge, either. Some plungers come attired in full costume, from their favorite animals (a few sharks and tigers were spotted), to movie characters (Star Wars made quite a showing this year), sports teams, and other fictional characters (at least one jolly leprechaun could be seen taking the plunge).

Others demonstrate patriotism decked out in full red-white-and-blue regalia.

“Some people jump in in full suits,” Nick says, as if this is only to be expected.

Like many fundraisers, it has a spirit of community, but there is clearly something special and joyful about this one.

“It has a completely different feeling to other fundraisers,” Nick explains, and the colorful, smiling photos support his assessment. “People have a good time, there are families, it’s a community event. Everyone is on their best behavior. People come together to have fun and support each other and support the cause, from colleges and schools, from police and fire departments, local teams, teachers, corrections officers. The feeling is somewhere between spring break and a day at Disney.”

The plungers are set loose. (Photo credit to Mike Maino, Ocean Air Support Squadron.)

The plungers need that spirit to bolster them, because the temperatures on this day hovered in the mid-30s – far from a balmy day at the beach.

But that didn’t stop supporters from gathering early to tailgate. Wawa is one sponsor for the event, offering sustenance to eager and nervous plungers alike. Plungers also visit local venues before and after the event, to make toasts, enjoy food, and listen to music.

Helicopters hover overhead, taking photos and monitoring the safety of participants. Divers wait in the water to offer support and assistance.

Then just before the event, the torch is carried past, and the person in charge of the ceremony cuts the tape that cordons off the beach, signaling the start.

Nick Penney, pre-plunge, accompanied by Vogelsang supporter Johnathan from warehousing.

Vogelsang supporters – along with everyone else – cheer. Over 30 employees have donated this year, showing their support for Nick and ultimately the Special Olympics.

At his 9th event, Nick no longer looks at the water with the same trepidation. He knows it can take a while before you get deep enough to finally jump in. He also knows that even after he’s done, his photo op may not be.

“I didn’t get that picture,” Dorothy says when he reaches the shore. So Nick plunges again.

For obvious reasons, Nick likes to get it done as quickly as possible. “But sometimes I have to go back in up to three times,” he says. “It seems like an eternity. Once I felt like the roadrunner, with my feet churning on gravel to try to get out. But on the video it was only about 2 or 3 seconds.”

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This year over 8,000 plungers joined Nick for fun, photo-ops, and in their support of a cause that is dear to their hearts.

“A lot of people volunteer their time to make the event happen,” Nick says, and it is clear he is not only impressed, but grateful for their efforts. “It’s incredible to be a small part of a really great effort that goes directly to help the community around us and allows the Special Olympics to reach out to these kids and make the programs work.”

The 31st annual Polar Bear Plunge was a success, raising a combined amount over $2.6 million, which set a new plunge record. The funds will help provide sports training and competitions, health screenings, and so much more to the thousands of Special Olympics New Jersey athletes across the state.

And in their flamingo hats, keeping good company with a few unicorns, vikings, and a host of other personalities, Vogelsang did its part in helping to raise both funds and awareness for this most special of causes.

To learn more about this organization and others that Vogelsang supports, visit our Community Giving page. We are grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children in our communities.