Super Plunger Mary Kokosko

Mary Kokosko!

She's a teacher, she's an organizer and fundraiser, she's a smiler!  She's very involved with people with disabilities and has been since she participated in the best-buddy program during her high school years.  She's outgoing, charming and full of life!  But most of all she's an amazing Super Plunger!  

This weekend the Special Olympics Maryland Polar Bear Plunges took place at Sandy Point State Park , Md.  The events kicked off with a Cool School Plunge on Thursday, followed by a Police, Firefighter/EMS and Military Plunge and a Corporate Plunge on Friday and culminating in three gigantic Polar Bear Plunges for everybody else on Saturday.  

Mary didn't just do one of these plunges.  Not even two or three.  She  probably plunged more than 25 times this year (but I actually have to ask her because I think it's even more than that).  And she hasn't  done that just this year but she's been at it for 8 years!  

On Thursday, Mary plunged with 270 students and 12 teachers (that's 7 school buses full) of South River High.  She got them there, she inspired and recruited the kids, she organized many fundraisers, she took care of the required forms and waivers and she collected the money. This year the school raised $ 34,000 and were the #1 team (again).  In total the school, over a 7 year period, has raised about $ 250,000.  And then after the Cool School Plunge, she came back on Friday to start super plunging:  a plunge every hour during a period of 24 hours.

I met Mary during the Super Plunge in 2014;  the coldest plunge EVER, when the waves in the Chesapeake Bay kept bringing in ice through which the plungers had to find their way!  (For those interested, here are some photos: It didn't discourage her though.  This year was her 5th time as a super plunger (7th time overall, including the cool school plunge).  She teamed-up with South River High student and student liaison Caroline Boyd whose father, Don Boyd, is the captain of the Super Plunge Team.

This Saturday Mary and I sat down for a few moments to talk. This was after plunge # 23 at around 8:15 AM and she was tired!  Very tired.  The "dark side of the moon" plunges (between 1 and 5AM) had been hard. When I asked her if she was planning to continue being a super plunger in the next few years she was a little hesitant.  "As long as her body would let her", she said!  "It takes more and more time recovering..."

Mary, the following photos are worth a thousand words, all illustrating  what an amazing, inspiring, funny and kind plunger you are!  Thank you for all that you do!  I have a feeling you'll continue doing this for a few more years!

And to all super plungers:  you all deserve to be the subject of a blog.  You are all so, so special.  Thank you for showing me the way!  Your photos are here:

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Ben and Kirk

Ben is a Special Olympics athlete who has competed for many, many years in almost every sport the organization has to offer.  Ben is legally blind but once again that didn't stop him from participating in the Special Olympics Super Plunge at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Md. this year:  plunging every hour for 24 hours, thereby raising money for this incredible charity.  

Ben lives with his mom and he has a cat.  He commutes every day to work in Washington, DC by metro.  He has an incredible memory and can tell you the day of the week for any calendar date.  He is a very strong advocate for people with disabilities.

This year Ben's handler didn't show up at the plunge.  Super plunger Kirk from Tampa, Florida offered to be Ben's eyes and ears for 24 hours.  By all accounts Kirk is considered a true hero.  He guided Ben to the water to plunge and took care of Ben between the plunges.  It was very touching to see the interactions between them and it still warms my heart.

I have seen Ben plunge in previous years but I have never seen him this happy.  Thank you Kirk!  (See Kirk's comments below the photos.)

After this blog was published Kirk wrote this in reply to several comments on his Facebook page:  "Thank you Marleen Van den Neste for the beautiful pictures and write up. I truly hope that Ben was happy, even if he was half as happy to plunge with me as I with him,  I'd be content. Also, the athletes are the only heroes.  I was just doing what every other super plunger does... Folks like Darryl Lee Despeaux who is the Rock and always there for Ben, and Rick Huether and his son Zack who would dig in anytime asked to help anyone - or the king of the plunge tent Don Boyd who gives countless hours of his time to support all - athlete and non-athlete alike. I happened to be at the right place at the right time and was so honored to get to spend time with the real hero Ben Collins."

Ben's personal donation page is:

Kirk's personal donation page is:

More Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge photos here:

Polar Bear Plunge

This past weekend I volunteered once again at the Special Olympics Maryland Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point Beach near Annapolis, MD. Fortunately Winter Storm Jonas producing prolific amounts of snow was behind us and we are all just barely plowed out!  Remains of snow and ice covered the grounds and it was definitely cold but that didn't keep  thousands of brave souls to take the plunge.  

Events took place over a period of several days.  On Friday the Super Plungers started their 24 hour stretch of hourly plunges.  Later that day the police, firefighters, EMS and military took the plunge.  And finally a large group of corporate plungers took a dip!  On Saturday morning the super plungers finished their 24 hour stretch, followed by a family plunge and two general public polar bear plunges.

The ambiance was absolutely wonderful:  music, food, festivities, costume contests, family fun activities, laughter and cheers and excitement abound.

Over two million dollars was raised for Special Olympics Maryland and money is still coming in.

Here are some photos of the events.