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Stretching Your Comfort Zone ... Joining the Super Plungers

For Michelina Scotto, raising $10,000 is easy. It’s the 24 hours of cold water that has her worried

Michelina Scotto, left, calls friend and inspiration Jimmy Myrick Jr. “the face of Special Olympics.”

For Michelina Scotto of Stevensville, the easy part is raising the $10,000 qualification fee for joining the Super Plunge Team of the 17th Annual MSP Polar Bear Plunge benefitting Special Olympics Maryland.
    So what if fundraising — including a Fire and Ice Party January 19 — cost the restaurateur, co-owner of Luna Blu in Annapolis and Rustico in Stevensville, more than she expects to raise? Raising money is what Scotto knows.
    Cold is what she fears.
    “I don’t like the cold,” she says.
    Yet for four years she’s taken the plunge, not only dashing in but going under the icy water.
    How did it feel?
    “Cold!” she says.
    “My first year was the year of the snowstorm,” she says. “It was so bad at the 1pm plunge you couldn’t see the Bay. People were medevaced out. The 3pm plunge was cancelled.”
    Four immersions in four years are an icy drop in a frozen bucket to what Scotto plans this year.
    As a super plunger, she’ll be submerging herself 24 times, once an hour for 24 hours, from 10am Friday, January 25 to 9am Saturday, January 26.
    “I’m scared to death!” she says.
    Only love could drive a normally rational person to such madness.
    Jimmy Myrick Jr. drove Scotto to it.
    Jimmy, who is 30 and has Down’s syndrome, made 10 plunges until acute leukemia forced him out of the water last year.
    Scotto calls him “the face of Special Olympics.”
    “Last year,” she says, “super plungers carried cutouts of Jimmy in each of their plunges.”
    This year, Scotto is super plunging in his honor.
    “There’s nobody like Jimmy,” Scotto says of her family friend. “He still smiles after this year, back in the hospital over and over with acute leukemia on top of Down’s syndrome.”
    So the last Friday in January, Scotto will arrive at the Super Plunge Team tent at about 9am for the first dip at 10am.
    “Every hour on the hour there’s a countdown,” she says. “Everyone goes out one door with Jimmy’s picture on it, so you hit his picture as you go.”
    Then it’s into the frigid water for the Super Plunge Team of 30 or so fanatics. Scotto covers up with Under Armour and water shoes. Then she goes all the way in, so not an inch of her tall frame, from her toes to her long blond hair, is dry.
    “Everyone comes back in another door and in to three hot tubs. I expect to jump right in one of them,” she says.
    Men’s and women’s changing rooms also have saunas and space to slip into dry clothes. Dry until the next hour’s countdown, that is.
    In between plunges, massage is offered by therapists like Michele Kliever of Even Keel Wellness Spa, who is keeping vigil with Scotto. There is food, chairs to relax in and hope of a few minutes sleep.
    “At 7pm,” when, Scotto says, “you need the momentum to pump you up, anyone in your family can come into the tent and go in with you.”
    Then follows a long, dark night of hourly plunges. That’s when Scotto will remember why she’s doing this: “For the people like Jimmy who inspire me to be a better person.”

Donate and follow the fund-raising competition of super plungers like ­Scotto at www.plungemd.com. Click on the 2013 Super Plunge Team, on the Top Team’s list under Who’s in the Lead.