Update 1/29/2017 9:03 a.m.: The 21st annual polar bear plunge raised a record $2.4 billion through fundraising efforts. This will allow 7,311 Special Olympics Maryland athletes to compete in year-round athletic programming free of charge.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — It’s unusual to see swimwear at this time in Maryland, but the 21st annual polar bear plunge brought sparsely-dressed participants to Sandy Point State Park on Saturday.
Despite the biting cold, swimmers splashed their way into the Chesapeake to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland.
Ashley Fields and Amanda Fields of Ellicott City, and Marissa Bartol of Silver Spring, were dressed like Vikings, walking around with soggy cardboard swords after jumping into the Chesapeake Bay during Saturday’s Polar Bear Plunge. How cold was it?
“Not cold enough for the Vikings,” yelled Ashley Fields before letting out a big “whoo!”
Bartol said it didn’t feel that bad.
“I’m used to it,” the soggy Silver Spring resident said just after making it back on to dry land. “It’s actually warmer outside the water than it was inside.”
“I would disagree with that,” countered Amanda Fields.
Josie Waugh of Carroll County, Maryland, said she was “freezing.”
But that was before she got into the water. “Actually, I feel better before I did in the water,” she said. “But it’s still really cold.”
It’s the third time Waugh has done this, and despite the uncomfortable conditions, she said this was a better time than past years. “There was no snow on the beach this time, so it’s been great.” When a friend mentioned there was no ice in the water though, she quickly shot back “there was definitely ice in the water.”
She said she lost her breath when she first time she walked into the water. “You can’t breathe in there,” she said. “I actually fell trying to high-five the police, so he pulled me up, thank goodness. But I still went under. I had no strength. I just wiped out.”
Waugh said she had a great time this year. “I can’t wait to do it again next year.”
Money raised during the event benefits the Maryland Special Olympics. As of Friday afternoon, about $2.1 million was raised. People will still be able to donate — organizers had a goal of $2.5 million total. Jim Schmutz, the president and CEO for Special Olympics, said hat despite the cold and the unhelpful wind, people ware “energized” by the environment.
“As cold as it is out there, it’s a warm environment,” he said.
The excitement and the adrenaline of the thousands who plunged their way into the Bay backed that assertion. With a Guiness Book of World Records spot on the line for the most Polar Bear Plungers in one 24-hour period, Schmutz was hoping all the paperwork and photographic evidence will land this event in the history books.