Cheryl Mascioli, of Brigantine, leads her dog MoJo in for judging during the pet costume contest Sunday at Brigantine's 2nd annual Leprechaun Leap. Other events held included a silent auction and a Polar Bear Run into the ocean, all of which benefit the South Jersey Cancer Fund.

Ben Fogletto

BRIGANTINE — Costumed pets strutted their stuff, local artisans displayed their best work and two-dozen brave souls took a brief dip in frigid waters Sunday — all in the name of raising money for the South Jersey Cancer Fund.

The second annual Leprechaun Leap in Brigantine melded together many forms of fundraising into one at the suggestion of Brigantine residents who worked together to come up with the idea for a post-St. Patrick’s Day celebration, said Isabel Pullella, leading organizer and the wife of Brigantine Councilman Tony Pullella. Last year’s event raised $8,000.

Temperatures hovered around 50 degrees Sunday afternoon, with intermittent rain keeping the crowd numbers moderate. Even so, that didn’t stop a small crowd, complete with two canine friends, from taking a planned run into the ocean. Pullella said $2,400 was raised through donations even before Sunday’s events began.

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“We’re really happy with the turnout, especially considering the weather. It’s kind of overwhelming to see how many people come out,” Pullella said. “We have a great group of people who helped to organize. Some work with rescue dogs. That’s how we brought pets in.”

One of the many contestants in the pet costume contest was Blackie, a 12-year-old lab mix in search of a home. Ken Schaffer, of Brigantine, and Erica Gelles, of Northfield, dressed Blackie as a frog. They said they hoped the exposure he would get at the event would help find him a new home.

Blackie was recently brought to the Beacon Animal Rescue in Upper Township after his previous family could no longer take care of him. Schaffer has given him a foster home, but Blackie still needs a permanent place to stay.

“He needs a good, loving, forever home — a retirement home,” Gelles said.

Blackie made a good showing in the costume contest, but his efforts were trumped by a hamster dressed in St. Patrick’s Day garb who won over judges’ hearts.

Those who came to the event also had the opportunity to have their photos taken with two celebrity dogs for $5 apiece. Jake, the MVP of Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl VI, and Elwood, the 2007 winner of the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, were both in attendance.

“He hasn’t let all the fame go to his head yet,” said Elwood’s owner, Karen Quigley, of Washington Township, Gloucester County.

Joe McNally, president of the South Jersey Cancer Fund, said the organization relies on local events such as the Leprechaun Leap to sustain the group, which assists cancer patients in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties with funds for prescriptions, medical supplies, food, transportation and utilities.

“We don’t have one large event or any big $100,000 givers. We really rely on things like this to keep us going,” McNally said.

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