By Dylan Roche
Brrr! Are you ready to bear the cold? About 10,000 people from across the state of Maryland are – and you could be one of them! On Saturday, January 26, the Maryland State Police’s annual Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park will bring a crowd of warmhearted thrill-seekers to take a dip in the cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay as a way of raising money and showing support for more than 7,000 Special Olympics Maryland athletes.
“What excites me every year is the generosity of Marylanders who support this event,” said Greg Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police, and one of those who was there for the inaugural Polar Bear Plunge in 1997. “This is our 23rd Plunge, and we have people who return year after year to support Special Olympics in this unique way. It’s amazing to see thousands of people out there willing to do this crazy thing – probably against the advice of family members and others – who I guarantee will have a good time.”
For the 23rd installation of the annual event, Maryland State Police hopes to raise $2.5 million. All participants need to do to register is pledge $75, which they can raise through crowdsourcing, sponsorships or a donation from their own pocket. After garnering the attention of their friends and family who donate, those participants make good on their promise to take the plunge on the big day – it’s up to them whether they want to just run into the water up to their ankles or fully submerge themselves. It all counts as plunging!
In addition to the Plunge itself, that Saturday will offer a festival of activities for plungers and spectators alike. Live music, games, food and drinks will make the day enjoyable for everyone involved.
A rolling plunge schedule on January 26 will give even more people a chance to participate than in past years. The day will kick off with a Pee Wee and Family Plunge at 11:00am, and other special times throughout the day will include a 98 Rock Plunge at noon and a Purple Plunge with the Ravens players at 2:00pm. Plunges for the general public will take place at 1:00pm, 3:00pm and 4:00pm.
The festival will also feature a new layout this year, and new bands lined up for the show at the Rams Head Ice Lodge tent will be Vertigo Red, Hot Tub Limo, Under the Covers and Blue Miracle.
In the days leading up to the Polar Bear Plunge, special days will give specific groups the opportunity to plunge together. The Cool Schools Challenge on Thursday, January 24, will bring student groups to the park, and the Police Plunge and Corporate Plunge on Friday, January 25, will make a great excuse for officers and businesspeople to break away from their routine to support a good cause.
To find more information on how you can participate in this year’s Polar Bear Plunge, flip through this guide and check out stories on how to prep for the plunge, what to expect at Plungefest, and what your fundraising dollars will go to support. For even more details, visit www.plungemd.org.