Why Would I Jump Into Freezing Water?
During my travels around the United States and the world, I intend to participate in various adventurous events in support of charities and non-profit organizations. So, back in January, I traveled to Sandy Point State Park just outside of Annapolis, Maryland. The reason for my trip was to participate in the 2016 Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge. This event has been held every January since 1997 and supports the Special Olympics of Maryland.
This year was the 20th annual event and was the biggest to date. This year, participants known as plungers raised $1.9 million. I personally raised $325 without much effort thanks to a few very good friends and family. Even though $325 doesn’t seem like much, it all goes towards training the athletes and putting on competition events for them. And these athletes could not be more thankful for all the donors, sponsors, and participants that help make this event the highlight of their year.
So, what does it take to participate? You start by signing up to participate and raise a minimum of $75 to participate. With that $75 you will receive a wonderful Polar Bear Plunge sweatshirt, and the gratitude of the athletes, their families, and coaches. For me, this event gives me thought feeling that I can somehow make a difference in the life of another person. These athletes are amazing and deserve the same opportunities as everyone else.
The next thing it takes to participate is jumping into the cold water during the month of January in Maryland. This year, the temperature was 39° plus the wind chill made it feel like it was in the low 20s. But the water was a balmy 37°! So technically it was warmer in the water than in the dry air. Except for the fact that you have clothes on in the dry air! If diving into the icy water is not something you’d like to do, you can support these athletes in another way. You can either donate directly to Special Olympics of Maryland, or you can sponsor a plunger who is willing to jump into the water.
This was not my first time participating in this event so I already knew a few tricks to making the event more manageable. One of the key things to remember is to wear a minimal amount of clothing. For women, a simple bathing suit (1 or 2 piece) and water shoes. For men, a pair of swimming trunks, or speedos if you’re into that, and water shoes. Now, this may seem crazy, but there is a good reason. In weather like this, the moment your wet clothes hit the cold air, they can and will begin to freeze and become icy. Water shoes are better than old sneakers because the sneakers will also retain a large amount of the water and make your feet that much colder.
Now that you’re done with a dip into the icy water, you will want to get changed quickly. A wonderful thing at the event is the large tents that are right on the beach for people to change in. One for the men, and one for the women. Inside, there are several large heaters that pump out hot air making it much warmer than outside. I learned many years ago that these tents are pretty safe to leave your belongings in, so a few items can make a huge difference in the changing process.
Start off with a large beach towel to lay down on the sand, preferably near one of the heaters. This is simply a flooring for you to stand on when removing your wet clothes and avoiding a large amount of sand between your frozen toes. Second, a small and lightweight beach chair. That way you have somewhere to sit while removing your wet shoes and later putting on dry socks and shoes. It isn’t really necessary, but I found it much more comfortable than the towel on the sand. Finally, is your second towel for drying off, a plastic bag for wet clothes, shoes, and towels.
During the time before and after your plunge, there are plenty of things to do, see, and experience. You can head into the Rams Head Ice Lodge and grab an adult beverage and listen to some live music. There are also food vendors with some warm food to fill your belly. Or perhaps climbing the rock wall or just visiting some of the vendors who are sponsoring the event.
One of my favorite things to do is to meet the police officers that are working the event and let them know how much I appreciate all that they do and for putting on the event. By far, I love meeting some of the athletes that benefit from this event. This in and of itself makes it worth getting cold for a few minutes. To see their smiling and happy faces when I speak to them and they thank me for participating, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Although the next event is almost a year away, I’m already in plans to participate again, but this time in a much larger capacity. I plan to take part in the Super Plunge and plunge once every hour for 24 hours straight. In order to do this, I must raise $10,000. It is a large amount, but I feel that if I start soon, then I will easily be able to reach that goal by January 2017. No matter what I raise, I will be back to plunge into the Chesapeake Bay in support of this great cause!