Ravens Roost No. 117 takes polar plunge for Special Olympics

Catonsville resident Ed Young, vice president of Ravens Roost No. 117,  will brave the chilly water of the Chesapeake Bay for the 12th time on Saturday, Jan. 25, along with nearly 6,000 other daring individuals as part of the 18th annual Polar Bear Plunge held at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis.  

Young, 57, is one of ten in Ravens Roost No. 117 of Catonsville, who will hop into the cold water in order to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland.   The Polar Bear Plunge, sponsored by the Maryland State Police,  is part of PlungeFest 2014.  The winter festival will feature music and family activities beginning at 11 a.m.

“Understanding how much [the Special Olympics] means to these kids renews your drive to come back and do it again,” Young said.  

According to Mary Peters, Young’s fiance and treasurer of Ravens Roost No. 117, the group has raised $2,510 for the event and will continue raising funds until the end of the week.  

This will be Peters’ third year going to the plunge.  She’s keeping dry this year, opting to take photos of the plungers instead.  

“I’m there to support all the teams,” she said.

New Ravens Roost No. 117 member, Terry Baligush, 54 of Catonsville, joined the group of Ravens fans last year.  This will be his first time taking the plunge.

"It's probably going to be quite a shock," Baligush said, adding,"[The money] is going for a good cause.  That's what makes it worthwhile."

Ravens Roost No. 117 of Catonsville is one of the many Ravens Roost teams that will participate in the event.  

Since the Ravens Roost Council began participating in the Polar Bear Plunge in 2002, they’ve collectively raised more than $992,000, said Darryl Despereaux, Special Olympics committee chairman for the Ravens Roost Council.  

Special Olympics Maryland hopes to raise $2.5 million with the event, but they may fall short of the goal this year, said Jason Schriml, vice president of communications for Special Olympics Maryland.  

“We’re a little behind, but I think we’re going to be close to it.  Our funders have surprised us always in their generosity.  We are hopeful that we’ll make our goal.” Schriml said.

The money raised will go toward equipment, competitions, practices and training for athletes participating in the Special Olympics, which provides 24 sports throughout the year, Schriml said.

Schriml said people can register the day of the event.  He’s encouraging people to continue fundraising up until Saturday, he said.

For people like Young, who continue to plunge into the Bay year after year the event has become more of a tradition.  

“It became something fun and different to do.  It’s sort of personal, even though I don’t have anyone who’s a participant in the [Special Olympics].   There are a lot of people in our club, who do have direct connections with people who benefit from the Special Olympics,” Young said.  

Young described getting into the wintry water as “shocking.”

“You go in, get wet and come right back out.”  After 30 to 40 seconds, Young said, “you start to feel your feet get numb.”

But, after doing it so many times, he knows what to expect, he said.  

Ravens Roost members also have the opportunity to do what they do best: tailgate.  

“It’s a really fun tailgate before the actual plunge,” Peters said.  “I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve gone down there.”

The group of Ravens fans will cook food like hot dogs, hamburgers and chili to warm up before they cool off in the water.  

The couple’s 10-year-old daughter Olivia Peters, who attends Westowne Elementary School, won’t be going to the plunge this year, but her parents think she’ll want to participate as she gets older.

“I think as she gets older she sees how much fun the events are and she’ll want to join in,” Young said.  

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