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Think Warm Thoughts At Polar Bear Plunge

New Year’s Day event raises money for breast cancer research.

There is so much to do in New Jersey during the winter holidays: visit farm markets, spend your Christmas money at various area malls, head to the shore and jump into the ocean.

Wait. What?

It’s true. , 10 E. Ocean Ave, Sea Bright would like you to come on down and take a dip for the third Polar Bear Plunge on the first day of 2012— that's tomorrow.

“This event started two years ago, [and] this year is the third annual plunge,” said Deana Rosenthal, president and founder of the Next Generation Foundation, which is the beneficiary of the event.

"NGF and Mad Hatter have been teaming up for the past six years making huge strides in the fight against Breast Cancer," Rosenthal said. "Funds raised at our events provide treatment and mammograms to local women in the Monmouth County Area."

So who takes the plunge?

“Men, women, boys and girls of all ages come out to plunge," Rosenthal said. "For some it has become a family tradition, for others it’s a way to plunge into the New Year for a good cause."

That embrace of the cold for a good cause warmed our hearts, sso that's why we've picked it for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach, and worth the trip.

DAY TRIPPER DIGEST

Estimated Travel Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Why it’s Worth the Trip:  Well, you have to admit it is a unique trip, but more than that, it is for a worthy cause: to fund the search for a cure for breast cancer. That’s a goal worth jumping into, no matter what temperature it is.

How to Get There from Here: Detailed driving directions.

You’ll Probably Get Hungry:  will be dishing up food for the event. If you’re looking for something different, however, there’s , , or  sushi.  Looking to go a little high-scale? Have brunch at  before your frigid splash.

While You’re in the Area:  If you’re feeling hearty, the hook is free. Gateway National Recreation Area features historic Fort Hancock and the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. If your style leaves something to be desired (or you misplaced some of your clothing) try Northshore Menswear for him, Posche Boutique for her. Or head farther south for  in Long Branch for both of you.

The Next Generation Foundation is a youth-based organization with a mission to get the younger generation involved with the fight against cancer.

“Whether it is raising awareness, fundraising or simply educating themselves on a disease that is so prevalent, we believe that their involvement could make for major advancements in finding a cure for cancer in the future,” Rosenthal said.

She described Sea Bright as "a great little town for out-of-towners to visit."

"There are little shops and restaurants within walking distance of the Mad Hatter. Just a few minutes down the road you will find  in Long Branch, where there is tons of shopping and restaurants," she said. "For those out-of-towners looking to make a great weekend out of the trip, the  is conveniently located right next to the Pier Village.  In the town of Red Bank (just past Rumson and Fair Haven, over the bridge from Sea Bright), there are fabulous restaurants and shopping."

Mad Hatter hosts a hot buffet lunch and live entertainment for after the plunge, Rosenthal said.

"In the past two years participation has tripled and last year we had over 250 plungers," she said. "Plungers have the opportunity to get friends and family to sponsor their plunge and our highest-fundraising plunger will be awarded an iPad 2."

For those less inclined to jump in, you can support the plungers with a donation and watch the event take place, all from the comfort and (relative) warmth of the Sea Bright beachfront.

This is one of five events The Next Generation Foundation organizes throughout the year. In addition to the Polar Bear Plunge, it also holds a “Day at the Races” at Monmouth Park racetrack, the Save the BOOBS ROCK’tober Fundraiser, Bowl for Boobs, and their annual black tie gala.

Rosenthal invited anyone and everyone to come to the event, dress up (uh, er) dress down, and greet the New Year with a quick dash into the blue, followed by a dash inside for some food and good company.

"For those out-of-towners looking to start a new way to ring in 2012, plungers have up until the day of the event to sign up and plunge," she said. "[The] $50 registration fee is due the morning of the event and participants must sign a waiver.  Plungers can wear anything they want to plunge into the water. Some plungers get really creative and dress in costume or come in teams and have a group theme."

At the very least, the cold Atlantic Ocean waters will shock away after-effects of your New Year’s excesses pretty quickly, and at the same time start off your 2012 doing good for many people.

Just think: in only a matter of months, it will be too busy to find any space at the Shore at all!

For more information and to register, visit: The Mad Hatter Annual Polar Bear Plunge

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