Manchester man joining thousands of plungers, united in a 'Special' cause

David Lindauer, of Manchester, has spent months waiting excitedly for his first Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge.

As a kayak athlete for Special Olympics Maryland, Lindauer is no stranger to the water, but this year he will be going straight into the chilly waves to raise money for the organization.

“We’ve been counting down the days since September,” said Rachel Holland, who works with Lindauer as his residential supervisor through Penn-Mar Human Services and will be plunging with him.

One motto at Penn-Marr, which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is “Transform life into living,” Holland said. For her and Lindauer, planning and fundraising as a team to support an organization that Lindauer is passionate about has been an extension of that message.

The pair will plunge into the Chesapeake Bay at around 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon wearing matching T-shirts. They also have official Polar Bear Plunge socks, but Holland said they will not be taking those into the water.

In Lindauer’s opinion, when it comes to the freezing water, is it better to take time to build your confidence up or just run in?

“Run in,” he replied with conviction.

The Polar Bear Plunge, which has been going strong for 22 years, consists of four themed plunges through the weekend with specialized plunges for corporations, police and schools. On Friday, even Gov. Larry Hogan made an appearance at the police plunge to show his support.

Participants brave the waters at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. At nearby Thomas Point, water temperatures stayed between 33 degrees and 35 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday, according to data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Data Buoy Center.

Saturday’s Plunge, which anyone can register for and is the largest, expects to draw more than 10,000 participants, all raising funds for the cause. According to the Polar Bear Plunge event page, there are 7,549 athletes affiliated with Special Olympics Maryland.

Holland and Lindauer’s team, Team PennMar, reached its $1,000 fundraising goal prior to the weekend’s event, but Holland said they will continue to accept donations until the fundraiser closes in early February.

Lindauer said it felt good to achieve the goal. He reached out to co-workers from his job at Schmuck Lumber Co., who supported him alongside family and others from Penn-Mar.

The team’s fundraising success was bad news for just one person: An upper manager at Penn-Mar, who made a bet with Lindauer, now has to wear a T-shirt to the event declaring that he was too chicken to plunge. All in good fun, of course.

After the main event, Lindauer and Holland plan to recover in the warming tents provided by the event’s organizers before spending their day around Annapolis sightseeing. Holland said the plunge is a great opportunity for Special Olympics athletes to get out and be a part of something.

Overall, the Polar Bear Plunge has a $2.5 million fundraising goal and had raised more than $1.9 million as of 7 p.m. Friday. For more information and to donate, go to www.somd.org and follow the link to the Polar Bear Plunge.

crighter@baltsun.com

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