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Super Plungers wade into icy Chesapeake Bay

Record Observer - 1/26/2018

SANDY POINT - Sharon Myrick said dipping into the chilly waters of the Chesapeake Bay last Friday, Jan. 19, was "pretty brutal," considering weeks before a cold front came through the region and portions of the Bay were still frozen.

Though thousands of people will be participating in the annual Special Olympics Maryland Polar Bear Plunge Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week, 38 individuals and teams took the challenge of withstanding the winter waters of the Bay each hour for a day straight. Every hour, on the hour, the Super Plungers mustered up their strength to withstand the water temperature.

Known as Super Plungers, these people charge out of a heated tent, down a ramp stretching across part of the Sandy Point State Park beach, and into the cold, crowded water. Limbs and water flailing in the air, screams from the cold and the ringing of a bell signifying another round survived were some of the scenes at the top of each hour.

Myrick said ice was accumulating at the shore line, and volunteers throughout the night shoveled through it to create a path for the plungers. She said the plunges went well until it got dark, as well as when the tides changed, bringing in more mini icebergs.

Some, she said, received small cuts and bruises from the ice scraping or bumping them in the cold, dark water.

The Myrick family, from Chester, has been involved in the Super Plunge since its creation in the early 2000s, with their late son Jimmy Myrick Jr. leading charge for more than a decade's worth of super plungers.

That's because Jimmy, who died from leukemia at the age of 33 in 2016, was a risk taker, Myrick said. The event was meaningful to Jimmy, she said, "because of the fact that it was crazy." Always up for a good time, Myrick said Jimmy always wanted to hang with the guys and was an avid sports fan.

"This was just another way to do something that was kind of out of the ordinary," Myrick said.

Taking on the spirit of Jimmy, some of his family members went a little crazy and plunged 48 times - once for them and once for Jimmy. Twice each hour, Myrick's husband Jim Myrick, daughter Jamie Myrick and sister Kathy Herberger went in the water.

With music blasting from an on-site DJ, Sharon said there was lots of camaraderie amongst the plungers, describing it as a party atmosphere in between each bay adventure. She said it is a great day for people to meet and interact with some of the athletes.

"It's a community of people all there for one goal, and that is to help bring awareness and to raise money" for Special Olympics Maryland athletes the ability to participate in their competitions.

The challenge of entering the water is not only difficult physically and mentally, but also financially, Sharon said, as each person or team is required to raise a certain amount of money. Between $10,000 and $15,000, depending on if it's an individual or team of plungers, needs to be raised to participate. For those who had not reached their goal before the event began, donations are still being accepted.

The Myricks goal is to raise $20,000, only about $1,000 away as of the Super Plunge.

The Super Plunge was the first of four days worth of plunging. On Thursday, students from across the state will be bused over to the state park to brave the cold water with their peers. On Friday, law enforcement agencies, military, EMS and other first responders will have their day in the Chesapeake.

After the law enforcement plunge and before the corporate plunge, Gov. Larry Hogan will present the Jimmy Myrick Courage Award to a deserving individual. The award was originally named he Maryland Courage Award, but was changed in Jimmy's honor after he and Hogan formed a bond and friendship at the University of Maryland Medical center.

The Myrick family, she said, will be in attendance to see the award presentation.

And on the main day of the plunge, in which thousands of people from all over take to the beach, Myrick said her husband Jim will plunge again with a group of athletes from the Upper Shore region.

For more information about the Polar Bear Plunge, visit somd.org.

Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.

 
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