AGH Penguin Swim To Return New Year’s Day; Event Participants Will Have 3-Blocks To Utilize

AGH Penguin Swim To Return New Year’s Day; Event Participants Will Have 3-Blocks To Utilize
Photo from the 2019 swim courtesy of Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – Atlantic General Hospital’s annual Penguin Swim will return to the beaches of Ocean City on New Year’s Day, but with a few changes.

On Friday, Jan. 1, Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) will host its 27th Annual Penguin Swim at the Princess Royale Oceanfront Hotel in Ocean City.

As in years past, swimmers will brave the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for community health care services. But in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional events held in the hotel atrium have been canceled.

“We are taking every precaution that we can,” said Event Coordinator Joy Stokes, “and we are confident all participants and spectators will be respectful.”

Stokes said changes made to this year’s Penguin Swim follow health department directives and orders relating to gatherings and events.

To reduce touchpoints, she noted, there will not be additional incentive prizes and apparel sales. And the event’s footprint will be expanded to include areas of the beach between 91st and 94th streets.

“We did consult with the health department and the Town of Ocean City, and we were definitely going to go by whatever they recommended,” Stokes said. “They said as long as we made changes for this year, we would be fine moving forward.”

Stokes explained that registered participants and spectators who attend this year’s swim will be directed to physically distanced cones, where they will remain throughout the event. Face coverings must be worn prior to and after the swim. Costume masks are not suitable face coverings.

“The swim starts promptly at 1 p.m. and we are going to try and have everyone off the beach by 1:15,” she said.

All participants must register either online or in person and check in to receive a wristband for access to the swim area. Online registration check-in will take place at the street ends on 92nd and 93rd and event day in-person registration will take place at the street end on 91st. Advanced check-in and in-person registration will also take place New Year’s Eve from 1-5 p.m. at the Princess Royale.

Stokes added that anyone wishing to participate virtually can do so by registering for the Cyber Swim. She said swimmers can simply register online, take an ice-cold dip wherever they are, and post a public photo or video to social media using #OCPenguinSwim.

“We’ve always had it, but we are pushing it more this year …,” she said. “You can still get involved and raise money without being there.”

In recent years, the AGH Penguin Swim has grown to include hundreds of participants. And while the hospital anticipants less in-person participation this year, Stokes said Atlantic General is still hoping to net $80,000 from this year’s event.

“Right now, 150 people have signed up,” she said. “If this was a normal year, we were hoping for over 1,000.”

Since its inception, the Penguin Swim has grossed $1.5 million. Legacy Sponsor Bull on the Beach, for example, has contributed nearly $630,000 to the Penguin Swim since 1995, and Ocean City Ravens Roost #44 has contributed nearly $135,000 to the Penguin Swim over the last 11 years.

All swimmers will receive an official 2021 Penguin Swim short-sleeve T-shirt with their $25 registration fee. Shirts for participants who register after Dec. 10 will be available while supplies last, and participants who raise $100 or more will be eligible to receive an official 2021 Penguin Swim long-sleeve T-shirt while supplies last. An additional $5 fee will be added for Cyber participants to cover the cost of mailing shirts and wristbands.

For more information and if you wish to volunteer to help with the event, visit

“This is a great opportunity for all of us to wash away 2020 while honoring and supporting our health care heroes,” Stokes said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.