What are you doing New Year’s Eve?? Better yet, what are you doing New Year’s Day!? The answer for us is simple: we’ll be plunging into the Atlantic Ocean in Ocean City for the 22nd Annual Penguin Swim! The local tradition brings thousands to the beach at 91st Street on New Year’s Day to start the year off right with a brave splash into the icy ocean waters to benefit Atlantic General Hospital. With a target goal of $75,075 and an expanded entertainment lineup for this year’s event, the 22nd Annual Penguin Swim in OCMD is shaping up to be the best one yet.

“It takes a village to keep this hospital running and the community is a huge part of that – we are very fortunate,” said AGH Event Coordinator Allison Justice. “It’s one of our largest events in terms of participation. I am hopeful that this year will be the biggest yet because it falls on Friday.” This year’s Penguin Swim will take place at the usual plunge point along the beach in front of the Princess Royale on 91st Street in Ocean City on January 1. Participants must register online OR in person for a registration fee of $25 before diving in collectively at 1pm. As always, costumes are encouraged. “We have seen as little as a bikini to as much as a full giraffe costume,” explained Justice, adding that while some may consider wet suits cheating, she views it as quite ingenious. Besides, no matter what you wear it’s all for a good cause! Participants of all ages are also welcome, as the event is a family-oriented one. Justice noted that there is even an area for the little ones to jump in the water, adding “we certainly don’t want you to feel like you can’t bring your 5-year old out too.”

Registration is simple and can be done ahead of time or the day of. Online registration takes just a few minutes, with options to become a ‘penguin’ individually or as part of a team. The $25 registration also includes a few incentive prizes:

$25 level – choice of an Official 2016 AGH Penguin Swim short-sleeve t-shirt, a Penguin Swim baseball hat, or a Penguin lunchbox.

$50 level – choice of a Penguin novelty hat, Penguin Swim mitten scarves, or a pair of Penguin Swim pint glasses.

$100 level – 2016 Penguin Swim long-sleeve t-shirt, Penguin Swim 24-ounce twister tumbler, or a Penguin Swim duffel bag.

$150 level – 2016 Penguin Swim sweatshirt, Penguin Swim robe, or Penguin Swim fleece blanket.

$250 level – 2016 AGH Penguin Swim windbreaker jacket.

$500 level – choose one prize from each level!

Prizes are also awarded for fundraising efforts, with Top Penguin awards presented for individuals (both 18 and over and 18 and under), as well as for top businesses and community groups or organizations. “It’s great to see everyone in the community get involved,” said Justice, who added that sponsorship and local business participation has had an incredible impact each year.

Don’t think you can stomach a January swim? Don’t worry, you only have to put so much as a toe in to be considered a participant. And if that’s still too much, there are of course options to simply donate. Out of towners can also jump on board by participating in the Cyber Swim. “You don’t have to be present to be a part of the fundraiser, you can certainly still be a part of the event,” said Justice who explained that those who can’t make this year’s swim can register and use the hashtag #OCPenguinSwim to show their participation from wherever they may be, be it jumping in the tub or splashing about in the warmer vacation waters of the Caribbean.

As we noted earlier, this year’s target is $75,075, and with the long holiday weekend, organizers anticipate more out-of-town participation this year as well. Justice explained that the event grows leaps and bounds with each passing year. In fact, last year was a banner year, with nearly one thousand participants and more than $91,000 raised!

Of course there is more than just the swim to enjoy, live entertainment can be enjoyed in the Atrium of the Princess Royal both before and after the event, along with ice sculptures and carnival games for kids and adults to enjoy. “We try to grow the event every year and this year we’re going to tout the carnival theme,” said Justice. “So many people are out there early and they’re looking for something to do before the swim.” $1 games will be available, as will a full bar and live music.

Justice also noted that in addition to signing up online ahead of time, there will also be a chance to check-in ahead of time on NYE between 2pm and 4pm to beat the crowds. “Especially if you are local, you can check in, gather your incentive prize, and have one less thing to worry about the day of.” Early check-in on NYE will also make participants eligible for an additional prize.

After the swim and the awards ceremony comes to an end, the fun doesn’t stop. While the official event is over, the un-official after party moves to Bull on the Beach. Other area restaurants typically join in on the fun as well, offering specials to participants so hang on to those wrist bands!

“You’re kicking off the New Year on the right foot. The spirit of the whole days is so contagious,” said Justice, and we couldn’t agree more. We are certainly looking forward to starting off 2016 with our community members having fun at the beach while raising money for a great cause. What could be better?? See you all at the #OCPenguinSwim!

Photos by Chris Parypa, submitted by AGH Penguin Swim