Over the last two years, a group of upper school students has traveled to Sandy Point State Park on a Thursday in late January to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge. The Polar Bear Plunge is a public event that allows people to “take the plunge”, diving into the near-freezing Chesapeake Bay in order to raise money for the Special Olympics. Some would call these students crazy— diving into freezing water in the coldest part of winter— but the participants from BL swear by the experience and the benefit it provides for a good cause.
“I think a big part of it that you get to take a day trip down to Sandy Point with your friends… but also that you’re supporting a great cause and working towards something bigger than yourself is important to kids,” said Senior and event organizer Reagan McNemar. “Since the time I was young I have done this thing called adaptive lacrosse, which helps kids with special needs learn the game of lacrosse, so I’ve always been kind of involved in supporting this cause,” said McNemar.
Boys’ Latin’s time participating in the Polar Bear Plunge started in 2017 as a Courage class project spearheaded by now Seniors Nick Lizana and McNemar.
“They took the project and ran with it,” said Upper School Learning Center Specialist Mr. Roche, who taught the class with Mrs. Gazin, it has been an event BL has participated in every year since.
Despite the restructuring of the Launch program, which resulted in the loss of Courage class, the Polar Bear Plunge still sees significant participation from the BL student body.
“I think it’s really the fundraising for the Special Olympics, students knowing that they are doing something to help bring kids back and involved over the years,” said Roche, whose own past experiences of coaching teams at the Special Olympics makes the cause that much more important. But inter-school competition also plays a part in student involvement. Schools such as Gilman, Bryn Mawr, and Mcdonough also participate, inciting a slightly competitive environment to see who can raise the most money.
“The competition between schools [to see who can raise the most money] is also a pretty big piece, the experience of being there with other schools mingling and taking the plunge for a good cause,” said Roche. All of these factors contribute to the anticipation and excitement that fills the air during the week of the plunge.
Whether they do it in order to raise money for the Special Olympics, because they love the experience of “taking the plunge”, or some mixture of both, BL has continued to show strong participation in the Polar Bear Plunge throughout the two years since its inception and shows promise to maintain these levels of participation based on the attitude of the activity’s leaders and organizers. Next year, juniors Blake Gable and Cole Erickson will take up the helm, organizing the Polar Bear Plunge and then passing on leadership to the next grade, establishing a tradition for years to come.
Update: While the group planned on going down to take the plunge last Thursday, January 25th, the tragic passing of senior Mattheu Thomas impacted their attendance of the event. The group still raised over $1,000 dollars to support the Special Olympics.