As a retired firefighter, my dad is always interested in supporting causes which involve police officers, firefighters, and first responders.



Back in Rhode Island, he is a drummer in his local retired firefighters and police officers pipe and drum band, “Guns and Hoses” and spends the better part of March playing “gigs” throughout New England, sometimes opening for local New England favorites like the Dropkick Murphys or marching in parades.  For the past few years, my dad and kids have eagerly awaited and enthusiastically participated in the Destin Polar Bear Plunge. 



In New England, where there are a variety of polar and penguin plunges, there is an excellent chance that the beach will be covered in snow and/ or slush, and that Narragansett Bay will be a chilly 39 degrees.  Based on the weather conditions at the Patriots game yesterday, I’d bet it’ll be pretty cold New Year’s Day this year.



With the Gulf of Mexico holding steady at a balmy 70 degrees or so, the water may actually be too warm for a polar bear, but my dad and kids remain committed to the cause and will bravely plunge into the water on January 1. For a list of area polar bear plunges, click here.



I’ve seen first- hand how first responders rally for each other and their families in times of need, so I look forward to the Plunge every year to help support the Destin Fire And Rescue Foundation and celebrate innovation and opportunity,  as opposed to responding to a tragedy or disaster.



By support, of course, I mean drinking a Bloody Mary and cheering on the participants.  



The Fire and Rescue Foundation is a non-profit organization, which not only supports the families and children of firefighters, but is also dedicated to promoting “education, improvement, and research activities in the field of fire safety and prevention, emergency medical care, and beach safety.” The Fire and Rescue Foundation aims to place automated external defibrillators, (AEDs) throughout Destin and train the community so this important life-saving technology can be used properly, provides training programs for CPR, water safety, and life-saving skills to kids between and the ages of 8-16.



The Destin Junior Life Guard program was created in 2007 in response to the community’s desire to create and maintain a youth safety program. This intensive, summer-long training program lasts eight weeks, and the kids get first- hand experience and training with CPR, First Aid, rescue techniques, and beach safety. The Junior Life Guard program takes the participants on a number of local field trips, including a scuba trip, and participates in local, regional, and national competitions.  The program is very competitive and kids return year after year to further their training and reconnect with their friends and instructors.



More than 5 years ago, the Fire and Rescue Foundation launched its own Polar Bear Plunge, and despite the chilly beginnings, the crowd was big and enthusiastic. Last year, warmer weather brought out a bigger turn out, and I’m expecting the same for 2014.  If you’re looking for a fun way to start the New Year, and support a good cause, head to James Lee Park behind the Crab Trap in Destin New Year’s morning at about 10 a.m. and take the plunge for Destin’s Junior Lifeguards. I’ll be cheering you on!



Follow Susan Moody on Twitter @susanjmoody and visit her blog, The Emerald Coast Insider, at www.emeraldcoasttreasurebox.com.