Despite weather conditions which proved much more challenging than last year, more than 9,000 participants took part in last weekend's 17th annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Maryland Special Olympics.
The weather did not match the 2010, when snow forced organizers to cancel the second of two scheduled plunges on that Saturday afternoon, but it was a challenge.
"It was definitely one of the coldest," said Linda Ellingsworth, a spokeswoman for Special Olympics Maryland, of the feedback from this year's event. "We heard that a lot from our Super Plungers, that it was the one of the toughest."
Super Plungers went into the water off Sandy Point State Park outside Annapolis once an hour for a 24-hour period as part of last weekend's event.
Among the 52 members of the group were Westminster resident Erica Wheeler and Sykesville resident Joshua Smith. Wheeler, a member of Special Olympics Maryland's board of directors, raised more than $1,000 in pledges. Smith, a skier as is Wheeler, raised more than $500.
"They all spent 24 hours together in a tent by the bay," Ellingsworth said.
This year's Plunge had raised $2.1 million as of Jan. 30, according Ellingsworth.
The fourth annual Cool Schools Challenge on Jan. 25 and the second Pee Wee and Family Plunge on Jan. 26 were also part of the event, which drew an estimated 13,000 participants. That total included students who took part in the Feb. 1 half of the Cool Schools Challenge, Ellingsworth said.
Students from Winfield Elementary took the plunge on Jan. 25, before the snow fell, as did 10 Carroll residents who were part of a 52-student contingent from Maryvale Preparatory School, an all-girls Catholic high school in Baltimore County.
Students from Manchester Valley High School were scheduled to go into the water on Feb. 1.
Residents of nearly every Maryland county took part in this year's event, Ellingsworth said, with Carroll ranked third behind Baltimore City-Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County.
She said plungers from Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia accounted for approximately 10 percent of the total.