By Monica Resa
Fifteen-year-old Shipley’s Choice resident and Archbishop Spalding student McKenna Chadwick is not afraid of getting her feet wet, literally. Last year, with the support of her family and the inspiration of a former Special Olympian, Jimmy Myrick, she became a Super Plunger and raised more than $10,000 for Special Olympics Maryland.
The Polar Bear Plunge is a series of January events that challenge people to charge into the wintry water at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. These plunges are Special Olympics Maryland’s biggest fundraising events of the year.
The first event, the Super Plunge, has only 38 participants but will account for more than 10 percent of all the money raised. The final event the following week is the Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge, which attracts more than 10,000 Marylanders who raise money to support Special Olympics.
“My dad and brothers did the plunge when I was little,” McKenna shared. “The Super Plunge was one of my favorite things because although I wasn’t plunging, it was so much fun for me. I would make posters and cheer for them as they ran out of the water, and because I was there every year, I made many friends.”
The Chadwicks took a break for a few years, but McKenna pushed her family to get involved again after Myrick’s death in 2016.
“Last year, I wrote a letter to my parents about how badly I wanted to get involved,” McKenna said. “I have a special place in my heart for Jimmy, as do my parents, and he was a big motivation for me. They agreed last year, and I reached my goal of $10,000.”
This will be McKenna’s second year as a Super Plunger. Her family has passed her the baton and she’s not slowing down. What exactly will she do this January?
“A Super Plunger jumps in the Chesapeake Bay 24 times over 24 hours,” McKenna expressed. “There are 38 of us this year, including many athletes. We start on Friday, January 18, and finish Saturday morning. Our goal is to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Maryland.”
The bravery of the Super Plungers draws TV and radio coverage that raises awareness, McKenna said. “We hope people see us jumping in around the clock and say, ‘Wow, if they can do that, I can jump in once,’” she added. “We want to get people motivated to participate and support Special Olympics.”
In the past, the Chadwick family put thousands of flyers on neighbors’ doors. McKenna and her siblings have been fortunate to receive donations from family, friends and neighbors. Businesses have been kind, especially the Safeway in Severna Park and Gina’s Cantina in Millersville. This year, McKenna and her family are sending hundreds of emails, using social media and contacting local businesses. They have already received a generous donation from Dawson’s Liquors.
If readers want to make a contribution, they can go to www.plungemd.com, click on the “Event Info” drop-down link, click on “Super Plunge,” scroll down the page until they see “Search Participants,” type in McKenna Chadwick and hit enter.
“It can be tough sometimes,” McKenna said. “The water is freezing and icy and the air is so cold; it only makes you colder. There’s this excitement, though, that I’ve felt since I was a kid at the Super Plunge, and it helps me to easily get through every plunge. Everyone at the event knows just how special this is and there’s something in the air that’s easy to feel. It’s full of love and excitement that keeps me warm, even in the frozen water.
“Everyone there is like a big family, the love of everyone is inspiring,” McKenna continued with a smile. “It is our hope that we motivate people to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge and support Special Olympics Maryland. But if jumping into the icy Chesapeake in January isn’t your thing, I will jump in for you. We just ask for your help in getting to our $10,000 goal. Thank you for your support!”