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Carroll County state’s attorney’s office hosting Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland

Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and then-Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding are pictured on the roof of Dunkin' Donuts in Westminster in 2018 raising money for Special Olympics Maryland. They have been instrumental in planning a local Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland to be held a the Carroll County Farm Museum on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and then-Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding are pictured on the roof of Dunkin' Donuts in Westminster in 2018 raising money for Special Olympics Maryland. They have been instrumental in planning a local Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland to be held a the Carroll County Farm Museum on Saturday, Feb. 27. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Ti/BSMG)

Carroll County is set to host its first Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday. Without the plunge. Or polar bears, for that matter.

With COVID-19 restrictions rendering this winter’s Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge virtual, depriving Carroll countians the chance to participate in a 25 year tradition of jumping into the frigid Chesapeake Bay, some members of the state’s attorney’s office decided to bring the plunge to Carroll.

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The county’s first Polar Bear Plunge will be a socially distant event for approximately 50 public safety officers from various agencies in the county including the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the Westminster Police Department, and the Manchester Police Department.

Cara Lewis, a prosecutor with the Carroll County state’s attorney’s office, says she came up with the idea of select local participants being hosed down by a fire department when brainstorming a way to physically participate in the plunge this year.

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Cara Lewis, special counsel for Carroll County State's Attorney's Office, came up with the idea to hold a local Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland. It will be held a the Carroll County Farm Museum on Saturday, Feb. 27.
Cara Lewis, special counsel for Carroll County State's Attorney's Office, came up with the idea to hold a local Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland. It will be held a the Carroll County Farm Museum on Saturday, Feb. 27. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

The MSP Polar Bear Plunge is an annual event to raise money for Special Olympics Maryland. Public safety officers from across the state usually participate in an icy plunge into the waters at Sandy Point State Park.

Lewis, who has participated in the past, calls the plunge a “shot of life.”

But due to COVID-19 regulations, the annual plunge was virtual this year, with participants encouraged to do their own socially distanced plunge while also donating to the fundraiser.

Carroll County’s first local Polar Bear Plunge will involve a ladder truck from the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department spraying participants over a portable pool at the Carroll County Farm Museum.

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Jeff Spaulding, a veteran plunger and the former Westminster police chief who now works in the state’s attorney’s office, has organized a number of events for Special Olympics over the years and often spends the week of the annual plunge preparing for the event and encouraging spectators to attend.

But this Saturday’s plunge will have to go on without the crowd, Spaulding said.

Former Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding, at right, leads the crowd of Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement officers to the finish line of the Torch Run.
Former Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding, at right, leads the crowd of Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement officers to the finish line of the Torch Run. (Mary Grace Keller)

“We have intentionally tried to keep the audience that will be present for the plunge on [Saturday] small,” Spaulding said. “If we had a thousand people show up to see this event, we would be well in excess of what the governor is allowing now for public outdoor events.”

Spaulding said seeking the approval of the health department was the first step in planning the event.

“We’re confident that we’re doing this in a responsible way. It’s an outdoor event, there will be social distancing involved as well as mandatory face mask wear,” Spaulding said.

Brian DeLeonardo, state’s attorney for Carroll County, is heading the event and hopes county residents will donate to the Special Olympics cause.

“We have an incredibly generous community. And I think that shows every year we’ve done these fundraisers,” DeLeonardo said. “This obviously is a very different time and it’s not as effective as being able to bring people. But hopefully people will remember that we will see contributions coming in long after.”

On deciding to have a separate and limited in-person event in Carroll County, Deleonardo said, “there was a real desire that we do something to try to show our individual support. And so that was the reason for this concept.”

Donations for the fundraiser can be made at www.policeplunge.com. All funds go to support athletes of Special Olympics, Maryland and donors can show their support for Carroll County participants by searching teams on the website.

Lewis says she is looking forward to seeing how different this year’s local plunge is and thinks the event is great for both team building and supporting a worthy cause.

“It’s a really unique and different type of plunge,” Lewis said. “But I think it certainly sends the message that we wanted to send.”

The Westminster Volunteer Fire Department will provide the water by hosing down participants in a local Polar Bear Plunge to be held a the Carroll County Farm Museum on Saturday, Feb. 27.
The Westminster Volunteer Fire Department will provide the water by hosing down participants in a local Polar Bear Plunge to be held a the Carroll County Farm Museum on Saturday, Feb. 27. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

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