On Feb. 25 most will be sleeping in and enjoying a lazy Saturday after a long week at work or school, but not Lexi Marta. For this bright-eyed, smiling 12-year-old, tomorrow will be forever be remembered as the day she took the Polar Bear Plunge after raising more than $2,200 for the New Jersey Special Olympics.
“I am definitely nervous and a little scared, but I am also so excited to the point where I can’t stop smiling,” Lexi said. “Even if it’s 100 degrees outside, I am always cold so I am praying for warm weather.”
With two plunges in Wildwood and Seaside Heights, the Polar Bear Plunge has become the largest source of fundraising for the New Jersey Special Olympics. Participants or “plungers” as young as six and as old as 70 travel to the Jersey shore to take the plunge, PBP representatives said. Between the two plunges, $1,330,751 has been raised as dedicated plungers continue to collect donations.
Even before she had heard of the Polar Bear Plunge, Lexi was already planning to volunteer at the New Jersey Special Olympics this summer. More than 2,200 children and adults participate in year-round competition training for the New Jersey Special Olympics each year.
“Before I knew about the plunge, I was already planning to volunteer at the Special Olympics in Lawrenceville with my cousin, Claudia,” Lexi said. “I heard a lot of my classmates talking about the Polar Bear Plunge and my mom had always wanted to see one, so we looked up the dates. When I learned that the money raised goes to the Special Olympics, I knew that I wanted to take the plunge.”
After Lexi registered for the Plunge, she began to raise money in January, using a website provided by the Polar Bear Plunge and calling on her neighbors to get involved.
“My little brother was actually the first to donate,” Lexi said. “That day I opened up my school directory and called all of my classmates and then my relatives. I made over 150 phone calls that day.”
Lexi also made a newsletter, describing the cause and asking her neighbors to donate. Lexi went door to door across Scotch Plains and Fanwood distributing the newsletter and collecting donations. An avid member of Fanwood Presbyterian Church, Lexi also called upon her fellow parishioners to help.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting me. One man at my church came up to me and asked me how much more I needed to meet my goal of $2,000, I said $100 and he wrote me a check,” Lexi said. “Everyone has been so generous. There were a few also anonymous donors who helped so much. I wish I could thank them in person.”
When she isn’t preparing to jump into freezing waters or raising money for a worthy cause, Lexi enjoys singing while playing the guitar or the piano. Lexi also plays the xylophone in the school band.
“I am majorly into music and theater. I think when I grow up I would like to be a performer like Taylor Swift. I am in all the choirs and band at school and I was just invited to sing with the Terrill Middle School jazz band,” she said.
Lexi went on to express her passion for volunteering, explaining that as part of a service learning component at , she wants to organize a soccer game that will include her classmates and competitors at the Special Olympics.
“My teacher has been very supportive; this would be something new for the Special Olympics. Raising money for this cause has been an amazing experience. It was incredible to see everyone I know pulling together to support one major cause.”
Lexi has already raised $2,275 and has set a new goal of $2,500. Anyone can make a donation now or after the Plunge. You don’t have to dance in the Atlantic Ocean tomorrow, but you can still help Lexi raise money for the New Jersey adding your donation here.