Harford County residents braved frigid waters the last two weekends, taking on the icy Chesapeake Bay in the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge.
The annual event at Sandy Point State Park is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics Maryland, the nonprofit organization that offers every athlete a quality sports training and competition experience.
Lt. Marc Junkerman, of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, and Tressa Andrews and Danny Grau, of Ravens Nest #1 in Harford County, were super plungers, dipping into the bay 24 times in 24 hours from Jan. 19 to 20.
On Friday, officers from the Aberdeen and Havre de Grace police departments took their turns in the Police Plunge.
This was Junkerman’s first time plunging, but he hopes it won’t be his last, he said.
“How can you not get behind Special Olympians?” Junkerman, the training director for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, asked. “A sacrifice of 30 hours to support somebody who faces challenges every day and rises above them — 30 hours is the least I can do.”
He started plunging at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 and finished with his 24th plunge at 9 a.m. Jan. 20. The coldest part, he said, was waiting in line to plunge in damp clothes.
“Once your body hit the water you thought, ‘OK, it’s cold.’ But then you get back out,” he said.
He became familiar with Special Olympians when he was at a conference in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2016, speaking on resiliency at the Law Enforcement Torch Run International Conference.
Junkerman does a lot of work with wellness and resiliency within law enforcement, “peer support making sure we take care of ourselves so we can care of other people,” he said.
At the conference, the chaperons were Special Olympians, he said, and he quickly found out that “when you talk about resiliency and wellness, there’s not any other group of people who are more resilient than Special Olympians.”
“These are unbelievable folks, people who are always positive, always have a can do attitude. They come from a mindset of ‘Don’t tell me what I can’t do, let me show you what I can do,’” Junkerman said.
Junkerman so far has raised $7,400 for Maryland Special Olympics and would like to reach his goal of $10,000. Donations are still being accepted at http://somd.convio.net/site/TR and entering Junkerman’s name.
Two members of Ravens Nest No.1 in Harford County did the Super Plunge again this year, meaning 24 plunges in the Chesapeake Bay in 24 hours.
Super Plungers were Tressa Andrews, aka daRavHon, called Spicy McCormick, and Danny Grau, Maryland Special Olympian, winner of many medals in the Special Olympics over the past years.
Together they raised more than $9,200 and donations are still being accepted at tinyurl.com/plungespicy
Joining them for Plunge 23, sponsored by the Ravens Nest #1, were Ken Mioduski, aka Purple Haze, Rick Dixon, aka Ravin Rick,, Matt Andrews, aka Fan Man, Lisa McFaul, aka da RavHon Dominique Sugar, Pat McFaul, aka Old School, and Sandy Coho, aka da RavHon Cookie Berger.
This year’s Polar Bear Plunge included an event just for law enforcement agencies.
The Havre de Grace Police Department, which raised $790, sent a team of three — PFC Phillip Paciocco, PFC Brett Kowalewski and Det./Cpl. Jeffery Cokewell — to plunge, while Aberdeen Police Department’s team featured 12 people, including two civilian city employees from the police department and city administration, according to Lt. Will Reiber, spokesman for the department and one of its plungers.
The Aberdeen Police Department is involved in the community in numerous ways, including the Special Olympics Torch Run and the Winter Games.
“When you get to see all the fundraising dollars it culminates in, it really puts into perspective the value of fundraising for such a great organization,” Reiber said. “Chief [Henry] Trabert has seen first-hand what the fundraising creates and what it does. They’re really phenomenal events for the athletes to be able to perform at the highest level.”
Aberdeen’s team as of Monday had raised $4,685, just shy of its $5,000 goal, Reiber said. Donations can still be made by looking up the department’s name at http://somd.convio.net/site/TR.
Aberdeen team members included Deputy Chief Kirk Bane, Sgt. Rick Clark, Ofc. Andrew Davis, Cpl. Butch Jansen, Ofc. Radovan Jovic, Ofc. Jason Neidig, Ofc. Michael Soler, Jennifer Liberto, the chief’s executive assistant, and Stefani Spector, from the city administration.