“Yeah, we’re nuts.” … And with that, and maybe a few expletives, nearly 20 members of Team Rubicon and Team Red, White & Blue plunged into the frigid waters at Coney Island, New Year’s Day.
They were among thousands of New Yorkers who took part in the 111th Annual Polar Bear Swim. Many make the icy swim to raise funds for charity. For TR and Team RWB, it was about a shared sense of purpose.
“It strengthens the camaraderie between the two groups,” said Stella Serpa, regional programs manager for TR Region 2. “We are all brothers and sisters: whether in uniform, out of uniform, or a civilian looking for a way to give back and support a great cause. We went into the water together, came back out together, and cheered each other on. That’s what’s it’s all about!”
Unbelievably, the group actually came ashore and returned for a second dip, despite the fact that the temperature was hovering at freezing.
Both organizations have different missions. Team Rubicon puts the skills of veterans to work during disasters. Team RWB is focused on connecting veterans to their communities through physical and social activity.
Because both seek to help veterans reintegrate into their communities, they easily could be seen as competitors in the nonprofit space. However, they have officially partnered to provide veterans a full spectrum of opportunities to feel the camaraderie, purpose, and pride they left in the military.
Members are encouraged to join both teams. Many, including Serpa, have. After all, physical fitness lends itself well to the demands of disaster response, which lends itself to fulfilling the continued sense of service many vets seek.
Joint events take place throughout the year, all across the country. Past events in New York have included the Tunnel to Towers Run in honor of 9/11, and Superstorm Sandy related service projects.
Asked whether they’ll be back in Coney Island next year, Serpa said, “It was cold, bitterly cold, but ironically, it was also amazing! It was all about the company we were with. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Written by TR public affairs officer Sam Kille