Trooper to take cold dip

January 10, 1999

Bruce SmithBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

This week, Lt. Bruce Smith will be in training for an aquatic event unlike any Mark Spitz ever competed in.

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Cold baths, cold drinks and cold showers will be part of his regimen as he prepares to strip down to his swimsuit and take an icy dip into the Chesapeake Bay for charity at 2 p.m. on Jan. 16.

Smith will be one of about 1,000 hardy souls participating in the Third Annual Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park. The event is sponsored by Maryland State Police and benefits the Special Olympics.


This will be the first year he has participated in the event, Smith said. He decided to take part at a friend's suggestion and because it is a good cause, he said.

"I hope we don't have to stay in for too long," he said.

Smith and other plungers will have to raise at least $50 in donations to take part. Those wishing to sponsor Smith can send contributions to his attention to Maryland State Police, Barrack "O", Western Region, 18345 Col. Henry K. Douglas Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21740. Checks should be made out to Special Olympics - Maryland.

The Maryland State Police raised $77,000 the first year of the plunge. Last year, 700 participants raised $150,000, which was the largest amount donated in a single day to the organization in its 28-year history, according to David Gell, director of public relations for Special Olympics - Maryland.

There are 8,000 Special Olympic athletes in the state, he said.

Athletes in Special Olympics have developmental disabilities, he said. They complete year-round sports training. Gell said the money raised will pay for their training and the recruiting of other athletes.

Gell expressed gratitude to the state police for their efforts.

"Without the state police and law enforcement in the community, the Special Olympics would not be what it is today," he said.

Not resting on their laurels, the state police hope to raise $200,000 this year, Public Information Officer Captain Greg Shipley said.

Many of the plunging participants will be returning from previous years, he said.

"They're surprised at how much fun it is," after the first time, he said.

Shipley said he the water temperature is expected to be about 30 to 35 degrees.

"It's chilly but you get psyched up - and you're in and out," he said.

Swimmers are required to wear swimsuits for the event. They can don T-shirts but no wet suits, he said. Beach shoes are recommended.

"Some people have started wearing costumes, and that's OK as long as they don't go as a scuba diver," he said.

The Polar Bear Plunge is open to the public and participants will receive a collectible beach towel.

Shipley said the popularity of the event continues to grow and plungers have come as far as Germany to take part and support the Special Olympics.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "It's like a ... beach party."

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