BAYVILLE – Spring may be in the air but there is still enough chill for an act of charity by three close friends who are also emergency medical technicians.
The trio have been friends for over two decades and they are raising money for Special Olympics New Jersey by participating in the Polar Bear Plunge.
The event held earlier this month was conducted virtually at the Bayville Fire Company, instead of Seaside Heights, due to the pandemic.
Brian P. Smith of Folcroft, Pennsylvania, Brian Gunnigle of Bayville and Ron Parry of Toms River are ready to take the plunge again.
To celebrate their 20 years of friendship and service in EMS, “The Ice Slayers” as they call themselves, will be doing the Polar Bear Plunge in their EMS uniforms. In lieu of the ocean this year, the Bayville Fire Company has graciously agreed to hose the group down with water from the fire trucks.
Smith who is a former Toms River resident said, “we’ve all been friends and EMTs for a long time. We worked together at Alert Ambulance, which is now part of Hackensack Meridian EMS in 2000 out in Lakewood.”
Parry said, “we have remained friends for the last 20 years. Brian P. Smith and Brian Gunnigle started doing the Plunge together five years ago.” He had been doing the plunge on his own with family members prior to his friends joining him for the effort.
Smith is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey certified EMT, a National Registry EMS Instructor and is the Compliance and Training Coordinator for Event Medical Staffing Solutions in Sharon Hill, Delaware County, PA and a Communications Specialist for PennSTAR Flight the aeromedical flight program at The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Gunnigle is an EMS Supervisor for Quality Medical Transport in Whiting, as well as a member of the Bayville Fire Company.
Ron Parry is an EMT with Quality Medical Transport.
Parry said a “family friend’s son, Kenny, was a special Olympian power lifter. I used to go DJ for his group Friends of Special Children. One year they asked me if I would go to help raise money for SO by jumping in the ocean,” Parry said.
So, I did and since then, I’ve tried to support Special Olympics as much as I could by either volunteering or by doing the plunge,” Parry added. Ron will also be doing the plunge with his wife Hilf and son Zak and daughter Ana. “They think it’s cool to help and want to make it a family thing.”
“Not only is this cause very dear to my heart for my own familial connection, but it’s so important especially in the middle of the current pandemic to ensure that these athletes continue to get the funding they need to keep their programs active, now more than ever. Helping these amazing athletes has every bit of the same rewarding feeling as saving a life and it’s important that they’re not forgotten. This pandemic affects them too,” Smith added.
Gunnigle said, “Brandon is a Special Olympics athlete with Central Regional High School and on the Challenger League. The Special Olympics program gives kids and young adults a place to excel and play sports with a team, it builds character and confidence.”
“The program gave Brandon the confidence to try out for the Central Regional High School Bowling Team. I am proud to say he made the team. Brandon is getting better with every competition,” he added.
Gunnigle said that “Brandon is also registered for the Special Olympics bowling for this year. Last year he was on his way to States before the pandemic hit and shut everything down.”
Smith said he once again had a great time despite the change in format. “Things went well! I raised over $800 which is a record for me, but sadly I didn’t hit my goal of $1,000.”
Donations can still be made. The link to Ice Slayer fundraising page is give.classy.org/PennSTARFlight, classy.org/fundraiser/3103976 and classy.org/fundraiser/3098547