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Maryland corrections chapter takes the plunge.

The Maryland ACA affiliate, the Maryland Criminal Justice Association (MCJA), was recruited by the Maryland State Police to raise money for the Special Olympics by participating in the 2009 Plungapalooza, also called the Polar Bear Plunge. The MCJA board invited the Maryland State Police spokesperson, Greg Shipley, along with Special Olympics marketing director, Tom Schneidwind, to its December meeting to discuss some ways they could work together to support the Special Olympics. The expectation was to present them with a $1,000 donation from MCJA. Instead, Shipley and Schneidwind convinced MCJA to apply the $1,000 toward an MCJA Team. With some reluctance (due to the short timeframe and that they were asking members to plunge into the icy Chesapeake Bay in January), MCJA agreed.


The team members named themselves the MCJA Mavericks and began to recruit members and solicit donations. They set what they felt were lofty goals, hoping to recruit 10 members and collect $5,000 in donations. But, within a very short period of time, they had 20 team members recruited among MCJA's ranks, friends and families, and thousands of dollars rolling in. Much to their surprise and delight, by the January 24 plunge date, the MCJA Mavericks had grown to 24 team members and had raised $9,307. The team members included correctional officers, wardens, administrative staff, administrative support staff, and family and friends. When they plunged together as a group into the icy cold water, there was no rank or grade involved--just a group of committed correctional staff working together for a common cause while having fun.

History of the Plunge

The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge began in 1997 with 350 plungers raising $75,000 in order to support and raise awareness for the 10,000 athletes who train and compete throughout the year in Maryland's Special Olympics sports programs. Since that time, more than 25,000 brave souls have raised a cumulative $6.6 million for Special Olympics Maryland by charging into the Chesapeake Bay in the largest special event in Maryland. In 2007, the event set yet another record, raising an incredible $2.2 million thanks to the efforts of 7,400 plungers--nearly double the number from the year before. This year broke all records with more than 11,000 plungers, who raised $3 million. The winter event has become a favorite of many local celebrities including Baltimore Ravens players, media personalities and elected officials.

The Maryland State Police Plunge has directly underwritten the cost of the Special Olympics Maryland's statewide competitions, such as Winter Games and Summer Games, as well as afforded hundreds of athletes the opportunity to compete on the world stage in places like Ireland; Nagano, Japan; and, most recently, Shanghai, China. But more than that, this event has changed thousands of athletes' lives for the better, allowing them to reach their full potential both on and off the playing fields.

It was a great way to develop team spirit for MCJA and an opportunity for correctional professionals to demonstrate their commitment to the community. They will begin recruiting a little earlier next year and will include plunge recruitment and commendation to plungers as part of their fall and spring conferences. They encourage each state association to find a cause and take a stand. It increases credibility and strengthens team spirit in a way that little else can.

MCJA Vital Stats

Founded: July 1973. Maryland is one of the first affiliate organizations of ACA.

Objectives: MCJA is a professional association of people who hold in common the goal of bettering the criminal justice profession. MCJA fosters professionalism and provides opportunities for training and development throughout the state of Maryland. The association awards scholarships to criminal justice students and develops and maintains liaisons with other associations for mutual assistance and the interchange of ideas and information.


Leadership: MCJA is comprised of a president, president-elect, immediate past president, secretary, treasurer and committee chairs.

Membership: MCJA has approximately 400 members.

Publications: MCJA publishes The Nexus, an online quarterly publication.

Conferences: MCJA hosts two annual conferences held in the spring and fall.

For more information: Contact Melinda Grenier, MCJA president, at (301) 600-3987;; Web site,

Jane Sachs is membership chairperson of the Maryland Criminal Justice Association. Melinda Grenier is president of MCJA..
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Title Annotation:Chapter Spotlight; Maryland Criminal Justice Association and Maryland State Police raise funds for special olympics
Author:Sachs, Jane; Grenier, Melinda
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1U5MD
Date:Apr 1, 2009
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