Hundreds of hearty souls waded into icy Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland on Saturday for the annual Deep Creek Dunk to benefit Special Olympics Maryland.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police had to cut away a thick layer of ice from the lake to make room for the 850 dunkers, who waded into the water from a spot near the Honi Honi bar.


"It looks like Alaska with the backdrop of the chunks of ice," said Jason Schriml, vice president of communications for Special Olympics Maryland.

The dunk raised about $160,000, just shy of the goal of $170,000.

While the lake was covered in a 16-inch-thick coating of ice and the water was a frigid 32 degrees, the air temperature was about 50 degrees, Schriml said.

"It wasn't balmy, but if you're getting out in 50-degree weather, it's not too bad," he said.

Meanwhile, the rescheduled Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis will take place on March 8.

The original plunge on Jan. 25 had to be called off due to cold weather and dangerous water conditions. Winds gusted to 35 mph and 3- to 4-foot waves in the Chesapeake Bay left snow and ice on the beach that day.

Gates will open at 8 a.m. on March 8, with a "pee wee" and family plunge at 11 a.m. and open plunges at noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Prospective plungers who haven't yet signed up can register in advance or on the day of the plunge.

Before the main plunge day, participants in the "cool schools" program will do their plunging on March 5.

Special Olympics officials set a $2.5 million fundraising goal for the Polar Bear Plunge. So far, $1.7 million has been raised.

Special Olympics Maryland has 6,500 athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities who participate in 24 sports. The organization hopes to double the number of participants by 2018.