Freezing for a reason: Polar bear plungers take a dip in Chesapeake Bay

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Polar Bear Plungers jumped into the Chesapeake Bay Saturday to help out a special group of Olympic athletes.

For the 22nd year, Maryland State police held its Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland and its athletes.

Jason Schriml, Vice President for Special Olympics Maryland, said the event is the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

“The cost is only $75 for the privilege to go in really cold water and for one moment of maybe shrieking and [real] coldness,” Schriml said. “It kind of puts some warmth in your heart … There’s probably a dozen special athletes walking around here thanking all of our plungers and our sponsors because it’s important to them.”

Around 10,000 plungers turned out at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis throughout the three day event from Jan. 25 through Jan. 27.

When kids took part in the Pee Wee Plunge at 11 a.m., the water and air temperature was 35 degrees, which was almost balmy compared to some of the downright frigid weather earlier this winter. But a stiff wind made it bitterly cold on the beach and made for some bigger waves.

Josh Smith is one of the athletes who’s grateful for the 10,000 plungers who’ve turned out to support the Special Olympics this year.

“Special,” is how he described how it made his heart feel.

When asked what his favorite Olympic sport was, Smith humbly said “skiing,” but Schriml added that Smith is a downhill skier who does giant slalom too.

Smith’s mom, Amy, works in special education and said it fills her heart to see all the plungers turn out to support athletes like her son.

“He is the star,” Amy said with a laugh. “I’m just Josh’s mom.”

“And I’m only identified as Josh’s dad,” added Chuck Smith, a retired Maryland State Trooper who served for 24 years.

Schriml said Special Olympics has always been dear to him. He said that even before he worked for the organization, he volunteered as soccer coach.

“Our athletes, I think, are the most dedicated,” Schriml said. “To that, they’re genuine in their love for their coaches; they’re genuine for the love for their sport.”

A Polar Bear Plunge team aptly called "Frostbite" gets ready to take the big, and very cold, dip into Chesapeake Bay. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
A Polar Bear Plunge team aptly called “Frostbyte” gets ready to take the big, cold dip into Chesapeake Bay. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

The water and air temperature was 35 degrees at 11 a.m. on Saturday when people made the plunge into Chesapeake Bay, but a bitter wind made it feel a lot colder. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The water and air temperature was 35 degrees at 11 a.m. on Saturday when people made the plunge into Chesapeake Bay, but a bitter wind made it feel a lot colder. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

The beach, as opposed to the water, was certainly a much warmer place to view the event. Those who took part said doing it for a good cause helped warm their hearts. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The beach, as opposed to the water, was certainly a much warmer place to view the event. Those who took part said doing it for a good cause helped warm their hearts. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Organizers said they expect the numbers from the 2018 Polar Plunge to match those from last year, which saw 10,000 people brave the cold waters. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Organizers said they expect the numbers from the 2018 Polar Plunge to match those from last year, which saw 10,000 people brave the cold waters. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

This year is the 22nd year that the Maryland State Police held the event, all the proceeds benefit Maryland Special Olympics. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
This year is the 22nd year that the Maryland State police held the event. All the proceeds benefit Maryland Special Olympics. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

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A Polar Bear Plunge team aptly called "Frostbite" gets ready to take the big, and very cold, dip into Chesapeake Bay. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The water and air temperature was 35 degrees at 11 a.m. on Saturday when people made the plunge into Chesapeake Bay, but a bitter wind made it feel a lot colder. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
The beach, as opposed to the water, was certainly a much warmer place to view the event. Those who took part said doing it for a good cause helped warm their hearts. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
Organizers said they expect the numbers from the 2018 Polar Plunge to match those from last year, which saw 10,000 people brave the cold waters. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
This year is the 22nd year that the Maryland State Police held the event, all the proceeds benefit Maryland Special Olympics. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

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