With temperatures around 20 degrees and snow in the forecast, Barbara Natoli jumped in the beyond-chilly waters of the Chesapeake Bay on Jan. 25.
If it sounds like a dare, it was.
“One of my coworkers said, ‘This sounds really crazy; let’s do it,’” said Natoli, a Montgomery County police officer stationed in Rockville. “And we raise money for a good cause.”
The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge takes place every winter at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. Thousands of participants collect donations for Special Olympics Maryland in exchange for jumping into the frigid Chesapeake.
This year’s two-day plunge was scheduled to continue on Jan. 26.
This was Natoli’s 17th year taking part in the event.
Two years ago, she accepted a challenge from Special Olympics Maryland athlete Adam Hays to take the Super Plunge. Natoli and others taking the Super Plunge commit to jump in the water every hour, on the hour, for an entire 24-hour day.
“It’s numbing, but it’s not unbearable,” Natoli said.
This year, Natoli set herself another challenge: jumping in twice an hour during the Super Plunge. She gets through the cold with support from friends taking the plunge with her.
“It’s worth it,” Natoli said. “Once you meet an athlete, they warm your heart so much the cold doesn’t even bother you.”
Natoli hopes to raise $12,000 for Special Olympics Maryland through her fundraising page plunge.kintera.org/2013/barbaranatoli. As of Jan. 25, she had raised $10,800.