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(PHOTOS) Thousands Take Polar Bear Plunge For Charity In Chesapeake Bay

01/29/12 07:02 AM ET   AP

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Thousands of people clad in bathing trunks, bikinis and even some woolly winter hats have taken the Polar Bear Plunge into the Chesapeake Bay for charity.

The surging mass of bathers whooped and hollered as they dashed into the chill winter waters, monitored by safety divers in wetsuits just offshore at Sandy Point State Park in Maryland.

Some participants spent mere seconds in the water, leaving behind sandals and floppy beach hats in the rush to get out just as fast as they got in. Some wore costumes, one like "Star Wars" character Darth Vader.

Saturday's was the 16th annual Polar Bear Plunge at the park, benefiting Special Olympics Maryland. Last year's plunge raised nearly $3 million, but there was no immediate word on the amount raised this year.

2012 Polar Bear Plunge
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Two men run out of the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Maryland during the 16th Annual Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge January 28, 2012. The MSP Polar Bear Plunge is a charity function benefiting the Maryland State Special Olympics.

Filed by Arin Greenwood  |