The early morning snow on Friday caused both excitement and disappointment for Anne Arundel County students who had plans to plunge in the icy waters of the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis.
Due to concerns for the safety of participants, the event on Friday was canceled by organizers Special Olympics Maryland and Maryland State Police (MSP) in collaboration with the school administration.
Students did not have a delay in the start time of school Friday and previous communication from organizers indicated that the event would still occur in the event of rain or snow. While organizers have not said the event would be rescheduled, they did send an email saying that students will still receive their souvenir sweatshirts and they will try to coordinate an opportunity to thank students in person soon.
The Cool School Challenge offers students the opportunity to plunge on Frigid Friday the day before the main Polar Bear Plunge event. Other students in the state participated in the event on Jan. 25 but Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) were scheduled to plunge Friday because of their exam schedule.
The cancellation on Friday was a major disappointment for all Anne Arundel students but especially for the South River SnoHawks and Arundel High School, who are ranked in the top five teams for the funds they've raised for Special Olympics Maryland. Last year, Arundel High School students led the state by raising more than $40,000 and South River High School came in second in the state by raising $33,930.
Adam Hays, a Special Olympics Maryland athlete and plunger, detailed the reasons for the cancellation in a YouTube video (attached to this article).
The following email was sent to students from Jim Schmutz, president and CEO of Special Olympics Maryland, and Greg Shipley of the MSP and Polar Bear Plunge event chairman:
The snowstorm that moved through shortly after 6:00 a.m. today unexpectedly turned Sandy Point State Park into a hazardous venue. An ice pack formed on all the walkways, which made everything very slippery. Wet feet after the plunge would have made that ice even slicker.
More dangerous than that was the wind. There has been a constant wind of more than 20 mph with gusts over 40 mph.
Our medical personnel advised us that the wind was creating significant risk for hypothermia and exposure issues. In fact, they said exposed skin could be affected in as little as five minutes.
From previous Cool School events, we knew many students don’t bring appropriate footwear for the event. We also knew many students spend a lot of time outside in their swim attire, creating significant risk for exposure and other medical issues.
These developing conditions were unexpected and had not been predicted to this extent. After consultation with our experts, we decided it was more important to cancel the event, even though some were already on their way, than to risk the health and safety of the thousands of students like you who had so generously committed to our Plunge.
Please know that your willingness to participate in the Cool School Plunge today is greatly appreciated. The funds you raised will still go to help children and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in year-round sports training and competition free-of-charge through Special Olympics Maryland.
TELL US: Do you know students who were planning on plunging on Friday? Tell us in the comments.