On Saturday, February 25, 2012, over 900 people ran screaming into the 32 degree water of Deep Creek Lake for the 14th annual MSP/NRP Deep Creek Dunk.
Huddled behind Uno’s Bar and Grill were hundreds of men, women, and children, college students and alumni, first time dunkers and experienced dunkers alike (as well as a mixture of sober and intoxicated). Some grouped around each other in blankets in an attempt to shield the bitter wind, while others bravely walked in bathing suits. Still more bizarre was the variety of costumes being paraded for the traditional costume contest, from a middle-aged man dressed as Dorothy (with his faithful friends completing the cast of the Wizard of Oz) to four frat boys in teletubbies suits. The teletubbies consisted of Frostburg students Mike Parsons, Joe Trimper, Jordan Smith, and Joshua Blatchley, who announced they chose these costumes because “We’re Frostburg’s finest!” The atmosphere was charged with excitement and fun as people danced, sang along to the music blasting through the speakers, and screamed in anticipation.
For those who became too cold or needed to change, there were mercifully warm heating tents (one for men, one for women). People socialized in these extensive white havens, either to talk excitedly about the approaching dunk time or to wonder aloud what madness inspired them to sign up for this. Still more were to be found in Uno’s, as dunkers were given a meal ticket on top of a sweatshirt for their help raising money for the cause.
As 2:00 finally arrived, the registered dunkers were herded in groups of around 50 to the designated area. Everyone charged into the numbing water, screaming, splashing, and falling. Some only went in to their knees, while others submerged completely as the crowd cheered. Observers gave high fives and shouts of encouragement to the shivering, stumbling (sometimes inebriated) souls making their way to the sanctuary of their towels and heating tents.
As incredible as the actual dunking is, it is nothing compared to the good it does for Special Olympics, as well as the local economy. In the Deep Creek Area, the event fills up hotels and gives business to restaurants and stores. Tom Waite, who works full time for the Special Olympics, has been coordinating the event for its entire 14 year duration. He says, “We didn’t know 14 years ago what it would be,” in reference to how popular it has become. This year had more dunkers than last year. When asked why so many signed up every year, he admitted, “I don’t know, you’ll have to tell me. This will be the warmest dunk ever though, so enjoy it,” he laughs. Even in the warm conditions, they had to clear 5 inches of ice away earlier in the week. Whether the conditions are relatively warm or cold, however, does not dampen the dunkers’ spirits in the slightest. In preparation for and during this day, dunkers raised $133,920, according to the Dunk’s website (http://deepcreekdunk2012.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=998854)!
Frostburg’s Alpha Sigma Tau (Gamma Zeta Chapter) sorority before the dunk