Plunging For Special Olympics

OCEAN CITY – The first annual State of Maryland’s Chief and Sheriff Association Polar Bear Plunge was held this week, gathering law enforcement officials from all over the state to take the plunge into the frigid water of the Atlantic Ocean.

“We all decided to do the first annual polar bear plunge in Ocean City,” Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said. “What we’ve done is raised over $20,000 for special Olympics.”

Here in Maryland, Special Olympics is law enforcement’s charity of choice.

“Maryland is one of the states in the whole country that raises the most money,” Depino said.

The water’s temperature stood at 58 degrees that evening, and DiPino along with many of her associates ran into the water and splashed around in good fun.

“It was so exciting,” DiPino said. “It’s cold a little but it was a lot of fun. It was with a bunch of people that are my friends and that are chiefs and sheriffs from across the state. It was really special to do something to help somebody else.”

Tom Schniedwind, Executive Vice President of Sports Marketing for the Special Olympics of Maryland, was present at the event.

“This week here and for 40 years, it use to be just the chiefs of police that came together to do their annual convention,” Schniedwind said. “This year sheriffs are also involved. They combined their conference, which is really cool. So, you have a whole bunch of leadership from around the state.”

The idea behind the plunge held this week was to promote the big event that is held in January at Sandy Point Park. That’s when the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge is held, and that plunge raises about $3.5 million for Special Olympics.

“Capt. John Newnan of Howard County Police Department determined that it would be a great idea to help promote the bigger event,” Schniedwind said. “So we’re hoping a lot of people will come out to our plunge. What we are doing with this plunge event is not just raining money but raising awareness. We had 100 people here plunge. In January, there’s about 16 or 17,000 people that plunge, including Joe Flacco from the Ravens.”

Schniedwind said that Newnan and Lt. Rich Currence of the Ocean City Police Department were the ones who made that day’s plunge possible.

“Chiefs are very busy people,” Schniedwind said. “They understand this, they understand what it is all about and this gives them the opportunity to sell this to the people that work for them.”

Schniedwind had Desi Holland with him, whose dad is the Chief of Police in Hyattsville. She is an athlete in the Special Olympics and is a “super plunger” in polar bear plunges.

“In the regular plunge, in January, there is a group of 60 or 70 of us that go in the water once a hour, every hour, for 24 hours,” Schniedwind said. “Desi is in her seventh year of the plunge. Desi is why we do it. This funding allows us to provide the competition and the training opportunities that she deserves just like anybody else.”

Newnan also plunged that day.

“It was like summer time out there,” he said. “We’re used to going in the water in January when it’s 32 degrees, so this was a treat.”

Newnan explained that there is bigger picture outside of the polar bear plunges.

“We do stuff like this year round and were proud to be a part of this movement that encompasses police officers in over 46 countries around the world,” he said. “There is no other profession anywhere in the world united like we are for one common cause.”