This year’s Penguin Swim to prohibit all inside activities, everything hosted outdoors
(Nov. 13, 2020) Looking to maintain a nearly three-decade-old New Year’s Day tradition during the coronavirus pandemic, Atlantic General Hospital Foundation’s annual Penguin Swim in 2021 will involve a larger outdoor footprint and no inside activities.
OC Ravens Roost #44 Penguin Swim team member Gary Miller, who has taken the icy dip for the last dozen plus years, said despite the 27th annual Penguin Swim taking place on a Friday, organizers are anticipating a minimal crowd to gather outside the Princess Royale on 91st Street.
“In normal years, that would be a huge turnout,” he said.
Kam LaBrunda, AGH Foundation development coordinator, said 28 participants had registered online for the Penguin Swim as of this Monday as compared to 32 at this point in 2019.
“We have no idea what to expect this year,” she said. “Most people wait until the last minute.”
In 2016, the most recent occasion when the event was held on a Friday, the Penguin Swim attracted a record-breaking 1,035 people, with 60 teams and 46 sponsors raising more than $106,000 for the hospital.
The fundraising goal is set a bit lower this year at $80,000 with just over $10,000 raised at this point.
LaBrunda said the event’s largest annual supporter, Bull on the Beach, 94th Street, and sister restaurant Crab Alley in West Ocean City, has been unable to hold an associated golf tournament, as well as its annual bull roast and crab feast because of the ongoing pandemic.
During the event’s first quarter century, the annual frozen dip has raised more than $1.4 million to support the AGH Foundation. LaBrunda said roughly $600,000 of that sum has been generated through the efforts of Bull on the Beach.
LaBrunda said in addition to nearly $30,000 each year from Bull on the Beach, OC Ravens Roost #44, which was the top-earning community team in 2019, has raised nearly $127,000 over the past decade.
“Bull on the Beach hasn’t been able to hold their fundraisers and the Ravens Roost haven’t been able to do fundraisers,” she said.
Miller said although efforts to obtain financial backing this year have been limited, the Ravens Roost did get a boost from the Shrimp Boat in West Ocean City and owner Joe Crocetti who donated a percentage of proceeds from a swim team appreciation event last weekend.
“Joe at the Shrimp Boat has been extremely generous,” he said. “This is the second year and he has been a big supporter.”
Miller said another revenue producer retained this year is the Ravens Roost annual raffle ticket drawing on New Years Day.
First prize includes $100 gift certificates for a handful of area dining establishments, including the Ocean Pines Yacht Club, Coastal Salt, Hoopers Crab House, Embers/Blu Crab House and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Second prize includes an in-home seafood dinner for six people catered by the Shrimp Boat.
Third prize nets a large basket of adult cheer, including beer, liquor and wine.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t going to be the normal big celebration inside [the Princess Royale] but the hospital is still hoping we can raise some money, because with covid there’s been a big need,” he said.
Miller said the Ravens Roost would not sponsor a hospitality room inside the hotel as has been past tradition.
“My team didn’t feel comfortable with the hospitality suite,” he said.
LaBrunda said the covid-altered event would abandon all inside activities.
“The entire event will be outdoors,” she said. “It’s really going to be come pay your registration fee, get a T-shirt, stand on beach till countdown then run into the water come out and dry off.”
Miller said all attendees would be required to wear masks except when in the water.
“The AGH Foundation is working closely with Ocean City to make sure this all stays safe,” he said. “Everyone will have to wear masks on the beach.”
To permit social distancing, the event’s beach area has been expanded.
“They are expanding the beach area, which is normally just in front of Princess Royale, to 94th Street,” Miller said
LaBrunda said markers would be set up on the beach to aid participants in social distancing.
“We’ll have volunteers doing crowd control and helping direct people to their marker on the beach,” she said.
While a glut of online Penguin Swim entries typically pour in during the final weeks leading up to the event, a deadline of Dec. 10 has been established this year to spur advance registrations.
LaBrunda said participants meeting the deadline would be guaranteed a commemorative T-shirt, which features a trio of socially distancing penguins holding a facemask.
“We do get a ton the night before because registration turns off at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day,” she said.
LaBrunda said AGH is relying on residents to help pick up the financial slack this year.
“We don’t except to get too many out-of-town people coming in for the event this year,” she said. “We definitely want to encourage our local population to come out and support their health care heroes.”
To learn more or register for the Penguin Swim, visit aghpenguinswim.org/