If you think nothing exciting happens between New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday — well, you’re wrong. One of Maryland’s more popular traditions, the Polar Bear Plunge closes out the month of January every year by drawing more than 10,000 courageous participants to Sandy Point State Park for a quick splash in the Chesapeake Bay. This year, the event is set for Saturday, January 27, with plunges at 1:00pm and 3:00pm.
It’s not just for bragging rights that people of all ages are willing to jump into 30-degree water, even if only for a few seconds. Proceeds from the event’s fundraising effort help support more than 7,500 athletes with Special Olympics Maryland, which provides year-round sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities.
“My fellow athletes and I are very lucky to have all of the friends we have in Maryland who help us out every year,” said Michael Heup, a Special Olympics athlete from Davidsonville, who is participating this year as a Super Plunger. “I want people to know that their help for Special Olympics really does change lives. Before I was in Special Olympics, I didn't have friends to talk to or hang out with. I didn't have any activities to keep me in shape or to go to for fun. Now I have more friends than I could ever imagine, and I live a very exciting life every day.”
We know that you — yes, you, our readers — are willing to brave some chilly water to support a cause like that, right?
If that’s not incentive enough, the day offers plenty of festivities such as live music courtesy of Rams Head, food, beverages, demonstrations and games. There’s even a heated tent where participants and their supporters can escape the wintry weather on the beach to enjoy themselves in comfort.
All a daring polar bear has to do for the privilege of plunging is raise $75, which will go to support Special Olympics Maryland. This year, Special Olympics Maryland hopes to raise $2.5 million, from which $10 can provide two meals for a Special Olympics athlete at competition, $25 can purchase a uniform for an athlete, and $60 can sponsor an athlete to attend Special Olympics Summer Games. That’s just the beginning, of course — $100 can buy enough medals for a Special Olympics team sport division, $203 can support an athlete in his or her sport, and $500 can provide transportation for a team to attend state competition.
Although the main plunge and all related festivities will take place on Saturday, the days before will offer chances for specific teams to show their support by plunging as a group. The most popular of these is the Cool Schools Challenge on Thursday, January 25, but there is also the Police Plunge, the Fire & EMS Plunge, the Military Plunge and the Corporate Plunge, all on Friday, January 26. There’s even a Pee Wee Plunge on the morning of Saturday, January 27, for youngsters to show their support by jumping in wading pools full of ice cubes.
Now that you know what you’re wading for (get it?), we have to ask what it is that you’re waiting for. Register and start fundraising at www.plungemd.com today.