Maryland’s Polar Bear Plunge is usually held at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, but without the in-person event this year, Ben Oaks neighbors rallied at their community beach to support Special Olympics athletes on January 30 at noon.
The community’s grounds chair, Bill Sturgeon, posted a notice on the community website roughly two weeks before the plunge date. On January 30, 13 people jumped or dipped into the Ben Oaks pond, and 40 people donated to the cause, raising roughly $2,300 for Special Olympics Maryland.
“It was surprisingly warm when I got out,” Sturgeon said. “It’s shocking when you get in, but not as bad as I thought it might be. This pond, there’s ice on the river, but there’s no ice on the pond. Part of that is because it’s fed by an underground stream and that water comes out at about 55 degrees.”
Ben Oaks had donations ranging from $25 to $500. Liam Kelly, who maintains the pond, was one of those generous donors.
“Special Olympics, I helped them out in college, and my extended family really liked the idea of me getting cold,” said Kelly, who moved to Ben Oaks about a year and a half ago. “It’s a community where everybody helps maintain the property, which helps foster that [sense of camaraderie]. It’s certainly the only reason you jump into a freezing-cold pond.”
Pleased with the turnout, Sturgeon and neighbor Chip Cunningham pledged to the crowd that they would plunge the next day in the snow.
“We’re thrilled with the turnout that we’ve had,” Sturgeon said. “It’s been a hard year with COVID.”