Chilled for charity: Police set example for Polar Bear Plunge; County officers brave cold waters of bay to help Special Olympics
Capital - 1/18/2019
The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge has so many participants eager to plunge into the frigid Chesapeake Bay to benefit Special Olympics Maryland they have to stagger the events over three days.
For Anne Arundel County Police Capt. Frank Tewey, plunging for his eighth year, the pleasure is all his.
"We are freezin' for a reason," he said. "Heroes need heroes. And to me these athletes who go out there every day and prove what they can do [are] my hero."
Special Olympics Maryland uses the monies raised to create opportunities for residents with mental challenges to participate in sports activities from bowling to track and field.
The annual event is the major fundraising event for the Maryland Torch Run, sponsored by the state police and joined by thousands every year at Sandy Point State Park. Plunge Week starts Friday with the Super Plunge - when the daring brave the bay waters once an hour for 24 hours - and resumes Thursday, Jan. 24, with the Cool Schools Challenge, followed by the Police Plunge on Jan. 25, and then the huge public plunge on Jan. 26.
Tewey has headed the Anne Arundel County Police plunge effort since 2010.
"I was volun-told to get involved in the Torch Run and I didn't know anything about what I was getting myself into," Tewey said in an interview at county police headquarters in Millersville.
Since then, it has become a "labor of love" for the police captain.
"You will never see me not involved in the Special Olympics," he said. "It tells [the athletes] nothing is insurmountable, nothing is impossible, hope exists."
And the police effort has had a huge impact on Special Olympics in the state and nationwide, according to Special Olympics Maryland CEO and President Jim Schmutz. He praised law enforcement efforts to support the 7,782 Special Olympics Maryland athletes who train and compete year-round in 27 sports.
The law enforcement community has raised more than $40 million since 1986, Schmutz said in a statement. "Together, through sport, we are creating a world where opportunity is not limited by disability," the statement said.
The national effort started in 1981 when a police chief in Kansas held a fundraiser for Special Olympics. The idea was taken to the Association of Chiefs of Police which adopted Special Olympics.
"And now we are in every state in the country, every province of Canada, and across 43 countries," Tewey said.
The plunge and torch run have positive impacts beyond the event and the Special Olympic athletes, Tewey has observed.
"We do this, give up our time and do this strictly for the athletes to be able to participate in increase the quality of their lives. But the hidden benefit, not often talked about, is what it does for our police officers," he said.
"It's an invigorator, a reset, control-alt-delete. You come out there and tell me how many frowns you see -- it's all whoops and hollers and camaraderie. You can see what it does for us, too."
The bottom line, he said, is the personal interactions police officers and staff have with the athletes at events throughout the year. Police award medals at events, take athletes bowling and many other things.
"When we educate the officers about the event and the athletes, they gain more awareness on the street," Tewey said. "Many agencies have subscribed to mental health first aid ... it helps them to recognize special needs, people with autism. We think if you have that early recognition you can have a more positive outcome in an interaction."
He is now chairman of the Maryland Torch Run. And he will continue to carry on that responsibility after his February retirement from county police force.
Anne Arundel is not only a leader in the Police Plunge. Young people have led the way, too.
South River High School's team has led all state schools in fundraising for several years straight. And this year is no exception. Going into Plunge Week they led all schools with over $18,000 pledged. Magothy Middle School was in a close second place at $15,161.
The county has also had top Super Plungers. Donny Boyd, of Davidsonville, has raised over $250,000 over the years. Last year he and daughter Caroline, who also led the South River team, were top Super Plungers. Caroline went off to college this year and another daughter, Natalie, stepped up to help lead Team Boyd.
Hundreds of people turn out to support the plungers and are kept busy in a huge Plungefest tent with entertainment, food and other fun.
"And who knows, if you come out you might find you are brave enough to get in the water," Tewey said.
When you go
What: Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland
When: Saturday, Jan. 26, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The main plunge period is noon to
Where: Sandy Point State Park, 1100 E. College Parkway, Annapolis.
Tickets: Participants must raise $75 to plunge and get a sweatshirt to mark the occasion. It's free to observe, but spectators must sign a waiver to to enter the Plunge Zone.
Parking: Very limited onsite parking that must be reserved in advance only. Parking at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Anne Arundel Community College and Kent Island High School. Shuttle buses run all day, starting at 8 a.m.
Credit: By E.B. Furgurson III - firstname.lastname@example.org
Caption: From left, Special Olympics athletes Elaina Camacho of Severn and Amanda Moore of Annapolis with and Anne Arundel County Police Capt. Frank Tewey. Camacho is about to become Athlete Ambassador for the Maryland Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
Chris Bartlett, left, of Easton, Allison Gerardy of Pasadena, Timmy Callahan of Easton, and Domenick Grande, right, of Cambridge, run out of the water during the 1 p.m. plunge at the 2018 Polar Bear Plunge.
Lauren Lockard, of Bel Air, hurries back to the shore after taking the plunge last year.
Anne Arundel County police recruits meet before taking the family plungelast year.
courtesy photo/Anne Arundel County Police
Capital Gazette file