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.

Cool School Plunge 1/30/15

The Cool School Plunge is an annual event that takes place in Sandy Point State Park, Md.  A large number of school teams come brave the Bay to support Special Olympics Maryland.  Air and water temperature are frigid.  I'm literally run over but it is worth it:  the excitement is beyond the imaginable.