459 ARW takes icy plunge for Special Olympics

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tim Smith
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Even a snow storm couldn't keep members of the 459th Air Refueling Wing from jumping into Maryland's Chesapeake Bay for a worthy cause. They took the Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 29, to raise money for the Special Olympics Maryland.

"I heard about it (Polar Bear Plunge), and I thought I could put up with the cold for a few minutes to help out," said Tech Sgt. Warren Hiller, 459th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "It's a good cause ... to help out the Special Olympics."

For each of the past four years, Sergeant Hiller organized a group of individuals to participate in the annual event held at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Md. The first year, he admits, he had a team of one. But his team, Crazy Yankee, grew to nine in the second year, 13 in the third year, and he had a team of 21 this year. It appears he has a knack for talking people into plunging in freezing waters.

"Honestly, I just ask if they'd like to help out for a good cause," said Sergeant Hiller. "I'd had a few who have done it a couple of years."

They may appear to be true gluttons for punishment, however, their bravery paid big for Special Olympics Maryland. This year, Crazy Yankee raised more than $2,100. According to the Polar Bear Plunge website, www.plungemd.com, the cause raked in more than $3.5 million dollars in donations from the big splash.

The Plunge is a huge success. So much so, that the organizers expected 15,000 people to show up this year.

"That's why they had to go to two plunge times," said Sergeant Hiller. "I'd say at least 10,000 showed up."

Now don't think for a minute that Maryland's Special Olympians are sidelined for this event. Many of them jump into the chilly Chesapeake too.

Sergeant Hiller said the temperature was in the 20's (Fahrenheit) the day of the plunge. And though he's never taken the plunge prior to this event, he's no stranger to freezing cold temperatures. He grew up near Buffalo, N.Y., thus the "Yankee." The "Crazy" comes from being crazy enough to march into freezing water.

The Maryland State Police organize the event and ensure emergency medical technicians are on hand just in case medical attention is required. If you're interested in joining team Crazy Yankee to participate in the plunge, contact Sergeant Hiller at 240-857-2415. And you can also seek membership with other teams or simply donate via www.plungemd.com.