By Kaitlin Ahern

Dunk for Adoption

  |  Local News - Manhattan  

A dozen people, dressed as penguins, participated in the Second Annual Dunk-a-Thon hosted by You Gotta Believe!, a teen agency based in New York City that is dedicated to finding permanent families for local teens.

While most of us were probably still snug in our beds after a late night ringing in 2012, about a dozen hearty souls, most dressed as penguins, paraded down the beach in Coney Island and dove into the winter-chilled waters of the Atlantic Ocean. No, it wasn’t the aftereffects of too many champagne toasts. It was You Gotta Believe!’s 2nd Annual Dunk-a-Thon, and those penguins were on a mission to raise funds to find permanent families for local teens who will soon “age out” of foster care.


Leading the pack was Pat O’Brien, founder of You Gotta Believe!, an NYC-based teen adoption agency. O’Brien’s goal was to stay in the frigid water for up to 90 seconds, but he ended up staying in for a full two minutes. He was joined by 13 other dunkers, who shed their flippered costumes before entering the ocean. Donors pledged $1 for every second the dunkers stayed in the water. Though donations are still coming in, at press time the event had raised about $6,000 for You Gotta Believe!, bringing the two-year total to $15,000.

Sponsors of the Dunk-a-Thon included Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, Verrazano Rotary Club, and Thomas Bus Co.

Each year, nearly 1,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 21 are discharged from NYC foster care facilities and many end up homeless. Surveys of the New York City homeless population have concluded that more than half of these young people have spent significant portions of their childhoods in the foster care system. Once homeless, incarceration, drug addiction, and prostitution often follow. With a permanent home and family, however, these same teens would have the opportunity and support to fulfill their potential and become happy, healthy, productive members of society.

You Gotta Believe! is the only organization in the U.S. that focuses solely on finding permanent homes for older youth. Over the past 15 years, it has placed hundreds of NYC-area youth in permanent homes.

To learn more about You Gotta Believe! and donate to its mission, visit

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