THE BIG CHILL: Bucks Countians challenged to 'take the plunge' on New Year's Day to benefit patients fighting MS, breast cancer

 

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. >> The search is on for polar bears who enjoy swimming in the Atlantic … in January.

No, not the big fluffy white kind you find in Alaska. We’re talking polar bears from Bucks County!!

The Annual Polar Bear Plunge is set for New Year’s Day – Friday, Jan. 1 at noon.

And Mike Kahlenberg of the Flowers Mill section of Middletown Township is busy recruiting folks to join him once again for a quick dip in the ocean near Resorts Casino Hotel.

Yes, there is a certain thrill about plunging into freezing cold ocean water. But, this story has a serious side to it – all proceeds go directly to help patients with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer through the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) and Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC).

“The MSAA is a little different from the other MS organizations,” said Kahlenberg. “The money doesn’t go to research. It goes directly to the patient. It’s the same with the LBBC. Both counsel patients. “

The club donates on average anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 per year.

“Some of the other charities that have benefitted in the past are Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Jefferson Hospital Jefferson’s Department of Medical Oncology, Greenwood House in Trenton, N.J., the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton and The Guardians of the Washington Crossing National Cemetery.

One of the ways the club makes money is by selling polar bear t-shirts. Kahlenberg is aiming to sell 500 this year.

On the front of the shirt, there is a picture of a polar bear and the words, “I Survived the 2016 Plunge.” The charities of the event are listed on the back.

A raffle also helps to generate funds. “Resorts Casino Hotel gives me a raffle,” he said. “When people sign up, purchase a t-shirt and make a donation, they can win a one-night’s stay for two people, which includes food and a dinner show.”

The Atlantic City Polar Bear Club has existed for more than a quarter of a century. Kahlenberg can’t say exactly when it started.

“This is my 25th year,” said Kahlenberg, who is 74 years young.

Polar Bear Ralph Thomas of Lower Makefield surpasses him at age 85. (He is indeed a true polar bear.) Thomas is the longtime president of the Rock and Mineral Club of Lower Bucks County.

Getting to the beach is easy for the polar bears. A bus transports many of them from the parking lot at the Morrisville Square Shopping Center, where there is a dollar store. The center is across from McDonald’s on Trenton Avenue.

“The bus leaves at 9 a.m. promptly,” Kahlenberg said. “We get back at approximately 3:30 a.m. It only costs $20, which is a bargain.”

He wants to fill up the bus, which seats 55 people. “They can come if they don’t want to make the plunge — if they want three hours at the beach,” he said.

Last year, Don Guardian, the mayor of Atlantic City, ran the countdown for the plunge. This year, however, he will be attending the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

“We are actively looking for someone to help us with the countdown like a celebrity or a sports person,” Kahlenberg said. “Then people would show up to see them.

“The CEO of Resorts Casino went in with us last year,” he said. “He’s going to be there this year.”

How does Kahlenberg get people to jump in the ocean at this time of year?

“Just come and have a good time,” Kahlenberg said. “It’s a family outing…Join us. Start your year off and get chilled.”

He has a good sense of humor.

“If you want to get frozen instead of watching the movie, ‘Frozen,’ come with the polar bears. If you want your voice to change a couple of octaves, come out!!” he says with a laugh.

For 37 years, Kahlenberg was the major owner of Karmak Shoes on Trenton Avenue in Morrisville, which was next to the Morrisville Square Shopping Center.

Kahlenberg’s last words of wisdom are: “Get a brain freeze and chill, and start the New Year with a purpose — donate and help make others more fortunate.”

For information about buying a t-shirt or about the event, please visit www.atlanticcitypolarbearclub.com; email: connect@atlanticcitypolarbearclub.com; Facebook:Atlanticcitypolarbearclub or call Mike Kahlenberg at 267-566-4649.

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