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Brunswick 'polar bear' divers take plunge for charity

Frederick News-Post - 1/2/2018

Jan. 02--Several dozen hearty souls dived right into 2018 on Monday with a dip in the Potomac River during Brunswick's 12th annual Freezin' for a Reason Polar Bear Plunge.

The annual New Year's Day charity event at the Brunswick Family Campground raises money for the Frederick County Special Olympics, the Brunswick food bank and the BEACON emergency relief fund.

This year, plunge participants dipped into water that was literally ice cold. Below-freezing temperatures in the last days of 2017 left the Potomac River frozen over with ice.

"I couldn't really feel anything," Rockville resident Conor O'Shaughnessy said after getting out of the river.

Members of the Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Company's Swift Water Rescue Team cleared space for the plungers to wade in to the river. In groups of four, participants lowered themselves into the water at a boat launch ramp. Members of the Swift Water Rescue Team waded in dry suits to prevent anyone going under the ice.

Out of the water, air temperatures hovered around 20 degrees.

"This is the coldest year ever," event organizer Lee Zumbach said. Zumbach has participated in the 12-year-old event since its inception. "I don't remember us ever having ice like that," he said.

The New Year's Day 2017 plunge raised around $7,000 for charity, Zumbach said. He expected the unusually cold temperatures Monday would limit how much money the event would raise this year.

Thurmont residents Caleb and Samantha Zecher said they together raised $800 in pledges for the plunge. The couple plunged together last year but said it was not as cold as this year.

"I lost all the feeling in my body," Samantha Zucher said. "It was hard to get out."

Event organizer Bob Ward warned participants against lingering in the river and suggested they not fully submerge in the cold water. Still, many decided to dunk their heads under water.

"I was a little nervous," Brunswick resident Mark Schaaf said as he dried off and warmed up after the plunge. "It was as cold as it looked."

Follow Cameron Dodd on Twitter: @CameronFNP


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