It's December in New York, which means most people have dug out their winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves.  But on Sunday, December 5, members of the Columbia field hockey team were grabbing their bathing suits and towels in preparation for a dip into the Atlantic Ocean!

Ten members of the field hockey program, including players and coaches, took part in the Fourth Annual Staten Island Polar Plunge at Great Kills Beach at the National Gateway Park in New York.

"The Polar Plunge is an annual fundraiser held at Great Kills Beach on Staten Island, for the New York Special Olympics," explained sophomore goalkeeper Christie O'Hara.  "Several field hockey players have participated in past years, and we were all very excited that our coaches worked up the courage to join us this year. As a group, we surpassed our original $1000 goal, and through donations from family and friends, we ended up raising $1,150!"

Each year, Special Olympics Polar Plunge's are held throughout the country to attract thousands of chilled souls to engage in a commendable and thrilling fundraising event. Earlier this year, thanks to over 2,000 committed plungers, seven separate Special Olympics New York plunges raised more than $600,000. All funds support the Special Olympics programs and promote awareness of people living with intellectual disabilities in New York.

O'Hara was joined by Rebecca Barrett, Bridget DeSandis, Katie DeSandis, Maggie O'Connor, Desi Scherf, and Paige Simmons, in addition to head coach Marybeth Freeman and assistant coach Katie Grant.

"It is great to see the hundreds of people of all ages who participate in this event every year," said O'Hara.  "Some people try to stay as warm as they can, wearing winter hats, water shoes, and long spandex, and only stick their feet in the water.  But others, including most of our group, dove into the water wearing only a bikini, and screaming the whole time. Whichever way you do it, it is a really fun event and a great story to tell! How many people can say that they have jumped into the Atlantic Ocean in December?"

So what does it feel like to go for a quick swim in the ocean in the middle of winter?

"The Polar Plunge is a test of your mental strength," O'Hara said.  "There is a lot of anticipation up until the actual plunge, so it is easy to psych yourself out and convince yourself that it will be worse than it actually is. The water is very cold (warmer than the air though!), but we just tried to remind ourselves that it was for a good cause and that soon enough we would be back in the heated tent to thaw. We got lucky with the weather this year; the sun was out and shining, whereas last year it was snowing!"

Added Freeman, "It was a wonderful event where we were able to raise money for an important cause while doing some team bonding. Christie O'Hara did a great job in organizing our group and we were happy to be a part of it."