UMB Police and Public Safety employees at the polar bear plunge

Eight plungers raised nearly $4,000 for Special Olympics Maryland.

The lapping waves were a balmy 39.6 degrees. In the distance, cars rumbled over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Eight University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Police and Public Safety employees shivered with their toes in the sand, waiting to rush into the frosty waters.

These brave employees joined thousands of first responders for the Police Plunge on Feb. 2. The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge raised more than $373,000 for Special Olympics Maryland this year.

"Participating in the Polar Bear Plunge for 16 years has been more than a tradition for me; it's a commitment to athletes and communities across our state,” says Lt. Matthew Johnson, the team captain for UMB’s Police Plunge team. “Our department is dedicated to extending our community-oriented approach beyond UMB, supporting fellow Marylanders who are also Special Olympians.”  

Like Johnson, most of the team were repeat plungers, but three were first-time attendees. Mikal Diggs and Stephen Howard Jr. completed the police academy in September as the department’s newest recruits. Clery Compliance Coordinator Allison Shelley also joined the department in September and decided to join the plunge just days before the event.

“Nothing has ever matched the pure energy at Sandy Point [State Park] on Plunge Day,” says Shelley. “The excitement and joy are contagious. It is a wonderful fundraiser, and the endorphins are a huge plus. I am looking forward to this next year and helping plan the day with our team.”

Splashes and shrieks filled the air as police officers, medics, and firefighters rushed into the frigid bay. Volunteer divers laughed and high-fived the brave plungers who waded into chest-deep waters to reach the Plunge boundary. The few minutes of cold are worth it for a good cause, employees say.

“I look forward to this event every year,” says Thomas Leone, MSL, assistant vice president for public safety and chief of police. “The community, the excitement, the athletes — there’s nothing better.”

Together, UMB Police and Public Safety raised nearly $4,000 for Special Olympics Maryland.  

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