The heat pulsating from the early-winter sun on January 27, 2007, offered a welcomed surprise to attorneys Hughie Hunt, Michael Siri and Marla Zide, as the blazing star helped warm their blood and defrost their extremities. The three, along with a few fellow members of MSBA’s Young Lawyer’s Section (YLS), sat at Hemingway’s Restaurant on the inordinately warm day and reflected on the events that had taken place.
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“Our goal, really, is to fundraise as much as we can for the Maryland Special Olympics,” said Siri, current Chair of YLS.
The Section has long held ties with the organization and regularly volunteered for their events at the University of Maryland, College Park; however, in 2006, when Zide learned that all the money raised at the Annual Polar Bear Plunge went to SOMD, she proposed the event to her fellow members as the latest “out-of-the-ordinary” activity (being the theme under Hunt’s 2006-07 term as Section Chair). Despite literally being in over-his-head at the ’07 Plunge, Hunt, along with Siri, Zide and two other plungers, emerged from the icy water with $3,000 in donations. Once thawed, these dedicated members of MSBA’s largest section promised to return.
Young Lawyers Section 2006-07 Chair Hughie Hunt prepares moments before the 2008 Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge at Sandy Point State Park.
Marla Zide, wearing the lone garment of uniformity, a blue plunger’s bracelet on her right wrist, watched the parade of local celebrities – television personality Marty Bass, former Baltimore Ravens all-star Michael McCrary and Governor Martin O’Malley, holding the hand of a young girl with Down syndrome – march to her side on the shoreline a few minutes before the noon plunge. A few feet behind the wall of VIPs stood Hughie Hunt and Michael Siri, prepared to get in and get out as quickly as possible.
“There is no [physical] way to prepare,” said Siri a few days before the plunge. “You are just mentally preparing to be really cold for that small amount of time.”
Though a year had passed since the last plunge, the passion burning within the YLS had not wavered. The Section now boasted ten participants – including members Thomas Weschler, Joe Howard and Jennifer Cook, among others – and, as of plunge-time, had raised approximately $3,400, with more donations coming.
“This is a great motivator to get people to donate,” Zide said. “You have to be invested in your group and cause, as a whole, to jump into the Bay in January.”
Screeches and cheers erupted from the crowd as the countdown began. The water appeared inviting and, unlike previous years, did not require an ice-chipper to clear an area for the plungers; but, Siri, Hunt and Zide knew what lie ahead. They hurled themselves into the frigid water of the Chesapeake Bay, just as they had the year before. And like the previous year, they emerged physically drained but emotionally enlivened, having been part of an experience that amassed over $3 million for the Maryland Special Olympics.
It was once believed that Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, had the ability to heal those stricken with disease. On this day, with the sun partly blocked by lingering clouds, there were no prayers to the Olympian, only praise for the admirable plungers and support for the courageous Special Olympians throughout the state.
“To raise that much money in such a short amount of time, it’s a great thing – it really says a lot about this state,” concluded Zide, who looks forward to the law-related costumes the Section has discussed for their 2009 plunge.