More than 3,000 students and school staff from across Maryland took the plunge into the chilly Chesapeake Bay to support the Special Olympics of Maryland and the 7,549 athletes it represents.
The 9th Annual Cool Schools Plunge, held on Jan. 25 at Sandy Point State Park, raised more than $350,000, surpassing the $300,000 goal. The event drew thousands of participants and spectators from 73 Maryland schools across 21 districts.
Marcella E. Franczkowski, Assistant State Superintendent for the Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services, represented the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) at the plunge.
“I am most appreciative of our exemplary schools that have taken this as one of their missions to partner students with disabilities and students without disabilities to participate in this event,” Ms. Franczkowski said.
She explained that the school districts had already met their funding goal before the event even started. Also, many more students and schools had participated than in the past.
Jim Schmutz, CEO and President of the Special Olympics of Maryland remarked that participation is growing every year, and he foresees it continuing in the future.
There has been a long-standing partnership between MSDE and the Special Olympics, not only through financial support but also through sharing the same vision and mission to provide year-round sports training and athletic competitions for individuals with intellectual disabilities, Ms. Franczkowski said. She emphasized the importance of all children having an equal opportunity to participate in interscholastic sports.
“The purpose of this day is to create lifelong relationships. I love to see the children all working together and benefiting from one another, Ms. Franczkowski said “The intensity and volume of this day gives me the honor and privilege to be here.” Marcella continued to explain that this is her third year participating in the festivities.
When the countdown for the plunge began, excited plungers prepared to take the frigid dive into the Bay’s 30-degree waters.. Loud laughter and splashes filled the air for the next seven minutes. As the plungers exited, you could hear their chilly chatters.
Besides having fun and saying they were freezing, the one thing that students who participated had in common was they all agreed without hesitating was that they would return next year to support this great cause.
“When we came out [of the water], our shirts were frozen, like ice. I would do it again, though,” said Andy Barhona, of Armistead Gardens School in Baltimore City.
Middle-schooler Cheyene Lazo, also from Armistead Gardens School, agreed with her classmate.
“I would definitely do it again. It’s for a good cause,” she said.
Callum Moran and David Pindell, friends from Magothy River Middle School in Arnold, commented on how easy it was to jump in the water and run out to the markers, but how difficult it was to turn around because of the distance to return to the sand. Even though they were freezing, they also agreed that they wanted to return next year.
Danielle Carpenter, Shannon Stunzman, and Liz Lawless, all staff at St. Charles High School in Waldorf, said it was the fourth year their school participated in the Cool Schools Plunge. They plan to continue the tradition.