Three HTii employees were among 150 brave souls plunging into frigid Potomac River waters at Point Lookout State Park December 10 for the annual St. Mary’s Splash to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Maryland.
Although the day was bright and sunny, water temperature was only 42 degrees with an even colder 40 degree air temperature, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, which sponsored the event.
“It’s a beautiful venue, a wonderful group of people and a great cause,” said Sheriff Tim Cameron, who took the plunge along with several members of his department.
Preliminary figures show the event raised $35,000 compared to last year’s net of $30,000, according to Special Olympics Maryland. The organization has 7,311 athletes with intellectual disabilities participating in 24 training and competition events ranging from standard track and field, to soccer, basketball, golf and skiing.
Safety precautions for the splashers at Pt. Lookout were well in evidence. Divers in survival suits from the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office stood guard in the water, ready to rescue anyone overcome by the frigid conditions.
“There are no casualties expected,” said Lieut. Brian Hartz of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s office, who also took the plunge. “My boss is going in, so I have to,” he noted.
A Ridge Rescue Squad ambulance was in attendance to provide basic life support services, including defibrillator paddles, said driver Sam Sayers.
When asked if he planned to take the plunge, Sayers said, “Hell no. I live on the water. I know better than that.”
The 150 splashers who did hit the water came from a total of roughly 21 teams representing local companies, individual volunteers and parents of children with special needs.
“You can call us crazy, and we may be, but we’re doing it for a terrific cause that deserves all the support it can get,” said Scott White, president and CEO of HTii, a partner in the event.
Two other HTii stalwarts joined White in the surf, Carolyn Whiteman and Adam Hammett.
Plunging into the cold Potomac was no worse than duck hunting, Hammett said. “It’s like putting the decoys out in the water and bringing them back in.”
A prize for best costume brought out several imaginative, if not downright bizarre, outfits – Santa Claus in a bathing suit, a couple with matching cow-head helmets and cross-dressers in padded bras and fishnet stockings.
Team names were often equally colorful – Ice, Ice Baby, Polar Express, Bear Necessities and the anatomically correct Chilly Nipples.
Prizes were also awarded for the splasher and sworn law enforcement employee who raised the most money, but winners had not yet been calculated by press time.
The Sheriff’s Office also participates in the St. Mary’s County Special Olympics Spring Games held every year at Leonardtown High School, supplying volunteers and handing out medals at an awards ceremony.
“We’re pleased to be involved, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Sheriff Cameron. “And when you see that ceremony at Leonardtown, you can’t help but want to be involved.”