Nothing can prep one for 37-degree ocean water at the Jersey Shoe—well, except perhaps a Mater Dei Catholic School Pep Rally.
The Catholic school in Lansdale Friday morning held a schoolwide pep rally in the gymnasium to celebrate and send off more than 50 faculty and parents headed to the annual Sea Isle City Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday.
It will be the first year that Mater Dei Catholic heads to the plunge. Under its prior nomenclature as St. Stanislaus School, it represented at the plunge for four years in a row.
"Let's give it up to these people going into the water when it's 32 degrees," said Mater Dei Principal Diane McCaughan at the pep rally.
The pep rally had original features — paper-plate polar bear masks, gymnastics, cheerleading, loud cheers, a rally gauntlet for plunge participants and a skit featuring Goldilocks and The Three Bears: Stan, Rose and Maria.
(The polar bear is the new Mater Dei mascot. The bears' names come from last year's amalgamation of three former Archdiocese schools into Mater Dei: St. Stanislaus in Lansdale, St. Rose of Lima in North Wales and St. Maria Goretti in Hatfield).
The skit was the most entertaining to the students — it featured students portraying the types of people most likely to see on the Boardwalk. This included singers, dancers and beatboxers.
At the end of the rally, students from each grade gathered on the blue gymnastics mats and took a "plunge" into the blue "ocean."
"This pep rally begins the polar plunge weekend," McCaughan said. "Tomorrow, over 50 faculty, staff and parents are going to jump in the Atlantic Ocean for tuition assistance."
The inspiration for participation came from McCaughan, who was down in Sea Isle with friends four years ago during the plunge.
"I thought it was a great idea. Maybe we could do that," she said. "We watched everybody do it, so why not get a group together? It's not just about raising money; it's about the spirit that happens when we do something like this."
Over the past four years, the school has raised more than $100,000 to help families who are having trouble paying tuition, be it a parent lost a job or a serious sickness has weakened a family.
According to Mater Dei’s website, tuition ranges from $2,580 to $3,890 for 5-Days half kindergarten and full kindergarten, respectively. For grade school, tuition ranges from $3,500 for a family with one student to $7,000 for a family with three students.
Non-parishioners and non-Catholic families can enroll children at Mater Dei, beginning at $4,500 for one student to $8,000 for three students.
"It's an opportunity for us to be able to give people a hand," McCaughan said.
The fundraising goal this year is $35,000. As of 10:05 a.m. Friday, the school had raised $11,073.
"Letters go out to everybody, including private groups, and the kids raise money in their classrooms," McCaughan said. "We have thousands of dollars in our donation buckets, not even counting the $11,000 we've raised so far."
McCaughan said the fundraising has no end date.
"Money comes in throughout the year. We get a lot of matching gifts. The highest amount we raised one year was $30,000. We hope we surpass that and raise $35,000," she said.
McCaughan said the pep rally was an exciting time for students.
"The kids are excited about this. They talk about it for weeks," she said. "They sang, they danced, and had a good old time."
The event, including the skit, is planned by the eighth-grade teachers and students.
Eighth-grade teacher Sally Lister said the school started with eight plungers the first year. Now, there will be about 50 on Saturday.
"There is a lot of support. It's a lot of fun," Lister said.
She said the school poplulation decided to go for it in the first year, pressed on by a school in New Jersey that made $1,200 because its principal jumped in the ocean.
"We said, 'We can make that.' In the first year, we raised $22,000. We're locked in and doing it now, forever," she said. "It's a great spirit builder, a great community builder."
On Saturday, those 50 polar plungers will meet at 47th and the Promenade with about several hundred other people donning Mater Dei attire. The plunge begins at 2 p.m.
"People expect us each year," Lister said. "There are 50,000 plungers for the event overall. It's a big day."
Want to donate toward the cause? Donations can be mailed to Mater Dei Catholic School, 493 E. Main St., Lansdale, PA 19446. Get more details at firstname.lastname@example.org