Chilling For Charity

Saturday's Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point is hoping for a cool $2 million

January 25, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

Saturday, a record number of people are expected to dive into the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland.

Last year, about 3,000 people pre-registered for the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park. This year, that number is about 5,600 - almost double. Organizers are hoping for 7,000 participants.

"The event has become more than just jumping in the water in terms of entertainment," said organizer Tom Schniedwind.

"That's what we hoped to create 11 years ago when I created this thing - an event that would stand alone. Yeah, it's a fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Maryland, but it's also a stand-alone event."

Each year, thousands of participants receive donations to dash into the icy waters (about 40 degrees) of the Chesapeake Bay. Some go in up to their necks, and others just barely dip their toes. There's also a festival tent with live music, vendors and other entertainment. It's called the Bluster on the Bay Winter Festival.

This year, there will also be a pig race called the Party Perfect Polar Porker 500. About a half-dozen pigs with colored silk markers will compete against one another. People will be able to buy fake money and bet on the pigs to win prizes, Schniedwind said.

"It's a riot," he said. "Just another way to add craziness to an already crazy event. Something for the kids."

Schniedwind and his 11-year-old son, Brendan, are two Super Plungers - a group of people who run into the water once every hour starting at noon tomorrow and ending at 11 a.m. Saturday. They'll stay up all night and hang out in a recreational vehicle by the sand.

"It's a family affair," Schniedwind said.

Each of the Super Plungers has to raise at least $10,000. Some have already raised more.

Last year, the plunge raised about $1.3 million for the Special Olympics. This year, organizers hope to collect $2 million. As of Thursday last week, they had raised about $820,000.

The number of people who register for the plunge Saturday depends on the weather, Schniedwind said. But since most of the entertainment is inside the heated tent, it won't be too much of a factor once you're there, he said.

"You want to help somebody?" Schniedwind asked. "Jump in the water."

The Polar Bear Plunge comes to Sandy Point State Park on Saturday. The park opens at 8 a.m. Day-of registration starts at 8 a.m. The plunge is at 2 p.m. There is a minimum $50 donation per plunger. A shuttle system will run to the park from the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and from Kent Island High School. For more information, go to

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