Fund-raiser draws 300 to bay for a chilly dip State police force holds Polar Bear Plunge to aid Md. Special Olympics

February 16, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

More than 300 people got their hearts pumping for a good cause yesterday when they splashed into the 35-degree water of the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park.

The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge for Maryland Special Olympics brought out law enforcement workers, Special Olympics athletes, and others willing to brave the chilly waters.

Participants were asked to raise at least $50 in pledges, and many raised more, according to organizer Miriam Weinstein of Maryland Special Olympics.

Many strange-looking polar bears were staring at the Chesapeake Bay on shore. Some milled around in worn terry-cloth bathrobes and old sleeping bags, while others waited for the start in nothing but swim trunks and bare chests in temperatures near 40 degrees.

Spectators shook their heads and cringed as gusts of wind blew across the shore every few minutes.

Paul Gibbs, 46, an Annapolis police sergeant, may have been trying to think warm when he dressed in sunglasses, a bright blue and orange shirt with palm trees, Mickey Mouse trunks and sandals.

"It's almost summer," he joked. "I don't do cold, but I do it for a good cause."

The polar bears dashed across the sand and hit the frigid water shortly after 1 p.m., most dunking in for only a few seconds before racing out to grab towels and blankets.

"It was wonderful," said Rachel Jenkins, 39, beaming as she walked back from the water. Jenkins, a housing manager, had grabbed a stranger as a plunge partner moments before going in. "We held each other's hand and ran in and out. You numb up so quickly you don't feel the chill to the bone."

Her son and daughter were there when she came out of the water to snap photographs and hand her a bathrobe. "It was invigorating, and I intend to do it again next year," Jenkins said.

The amount of money raised was not available.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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