3, 2, 1, PLUNGE!
The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park draws thousands.
Despite the chilly weather, participants happily embraced the cold for the Maryland State Police sponsored Polar Bear Plunge, now in its 15th consecutive year to support Special Olympics Maryland.
Mickey Cucchiella of Baltimore's 98Rock morning show, an event sponsor, told the crowd that the energy of the crowd would warm them up.
“It’s unbelievable how this has grown to an event this size in the five years I’ve been doing it," Cucchiella said.
This year an estimated 12,000 plungers were expected to have participated, with another 13,000 attending the festivities.
There were two plunges today [Jan. 29]—the first at 1 p.m., the second at 3 p.m. Because the event has grown so much over the years, organizers also scheduled a pre-plunge event on Friday for school groups to dip. This "Frigid Friday" event, also held in 2010, lured 55 schools this year, up from 21 last year.
Experiencing the Plunge
Steve, Louis, and Luke Schwartz of Arnold decided to go the Super Plunger route, which entailed taking the chilly dip once an hour for 24 hours to raise funds and awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics Maryland.
Andy Hiltner, James Baker, and Matt Burns of the Severn River Middle School Honor Society committed to participate in the plunge this year, even though they had already satisfied their required service hours. The boys decided to volunteer in the community, mentoring developmentally delayed children, and naturally saw this as another opportunity to give back, just for fun.
“It was a lot colder than I thought it would be. It took my breath away,” admitted Hiltner. This was his first time plunging and he raised $160.
Activities for those who didn’t dip
All who attended were not dippers, though. Many people were out to support their plungers or to just enjoy a day of fun in the middle of winter—an escape needed by many beginning to feel cabin fever.
This year’s Plungefest had a host of "Frigid Fun Zones." Numerous tents, most of them heated, featured the likes of DJ Pauly D, the MTV Jersey Shore star, the Chesapeake Bayhawks Lacrosse Experience, a tent of relaxation and beauty from Robert Andrew—The Spa and Salon, and a Carnival FunFest, where merchandise and food could be purchased and carnival-type games could be played.
Conrad Bladey of Linthicum and owner of Hutman Artcars, was in the middle of the action. He has been invited back to the event for the last five years. His truck is a visually stimulating art exhibit on wheels.
“This event is loads of fun, and I encourage everyone to dress up all the time, not just once a year,” he said, amused by the variety of plunger costumes.
A special guest of the day and co-chair of the event was Rosa Marcellino, a 9-year -old girl from Edgewater, who is an active athlete at Special Olympics Maryland and was the inspiration behind Rosa’s Law, signed last fall by President Barack Obama. Rosa’s Law changes the references in federal law from mental retardation to intellectual disability.
The federal law followed a similar Maryland Law, also called Rosa’s Law, which was signed in 2009.
Marcellino was escorted for the dip by a very special friend of hers, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. As he spoke to the crowd before the plunge, he admitted, "I am getting cold just thinking about it.”
Nevertheless, Flacco valiantly escorted Marcellino down the beach so they could take the dip together with thousands of their new plunging friends.