This year's Polar Bear Plunge in Brigantine on New Year's Day is embracing the legacy of Hurricane Sandy, even ad-ding a depiction of the storm onto its official merchandise logo.

Over the years, the event has grown into a major fundraising effort for Fisher House Foun-dation, a national nonprofit which provides housing and transportation to wounded military members and their families. Last year's event had more than 1,000 swimmers, 9,000 spectators and raised about $48,000. The 2013 goal is $60,000, said organizer Bob Lund, of Brigantine.

Sandy damaged the north end beach and its seawall, where the plunge had been held for 12 years, said Lund. But even before the storm hit, organizers had decided to move this year's event to the 14th Street South Beach, because of concerns about a planned reclamation project and to be closer to the afterparty at Laguna Grill, he said.

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"Laguna Grill itself suffered damage from Sandy," Lund said. He added that Augie Peltonen, who has designed the logo for the event since 2004, designed this year's in spite of having the entire first floor of his Brigantine home inundated with flood water.

"After the storm was over I put the hurricane on there, because it did affect so many people," Peltonen said of the logo, which originally showed a bear being lowered to the beach from a helicopter. "It is a commemorative shirt in a way."

Peltonen said he has kept his difficulties, as he repairs the first floor of his three-story home, in perpective.

"(Event founder and co-organizer) John Hand has a saying, that people in the flood lost material things. but guys in the military lose their lives, their arms and legs," said Peltonen, a retired art teacher who taught in Galloway Township for 33 years.

Lund said organizers aren't sure how Sandy will affect turnout at the plunge, but they are hoping for the best.

"On the one hand, there are so many people whose primary or second home was so severely damaged, they may not be around over the holidays," Lund said. "But we have heard from so many who want to make sure they get shirts and merchandise and attend it."

Other Polar Bear Plunges will also take place Jan. 1 in Atlantic City, Margate, Ventnor and Ocean City.

Lund said having Sandy-themed merchandise may help the group sell more. The plunge makes money for Fisher House by selling shirts, calendars and other items, he said. It also seeks sponsorships and contributions. Organizers started selling the merchandise Dec. 15 in front of Ace Hardware, at 3116 Brigantine Blvd., and are selling it there every weekend up to and including New Year's Day, Lund said.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:


If you go

Brigantine Polar Bear Plunge,

11 a.m. New Year's Day at 14th Street South Beach, Brigantine. Live music, refreshments, color guard and official merchandise for sale. Prizes for the best costumes. Noon swim followed by a post-plunge party at the Laguna Grill, 1400 Ocean Ave., with special food and drink pricing. Entertainment by Mott's Creek Pickers. Call John Hand at 609-892-0365 or Bob Lund at 609-892-7339 or e-mail

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