Despite welcoming the first day of Spring last week, residents in Western North Carolina took advantage of the continuing cold weather to raise money for local charities. Deemed the “Polar Plunge,” hundreds of people across western North Carolina have been committing to dive into ice cold waters as a challenge to encourage donations for local organizations and charities.
From helping raise money to build a church in Africa, to scholarship funds, or just helping a neighbor who has been plagued with cancer, whatever the cause, residents are taking the plunge.
Social media has helped the Polar Plunge gain exposure over the last few weeks with residents filming themselves jumping into rivers, ponds, outdoor pools, or any other body of water. As a result, hundreds of dollars has been raised for organizations across western North Carolina.
Eric Giles, a Macon County native and deputy with the Graham County Sheriff’s Office joined fellow officers this week to help raise money for a member of his law enforcement family. “The reason I did the polar plunge is because of the love I have for my law enforcement family,” said Giles. “Dennis Crisp is a deputy and School Resource Officer with Graham County and he is a great person. Dennis does so much good for his community and the people around him. Dennis is a blessing to anyone that has the good fortune to spend any time around him. I trust my life to Dennis every single day. I know he has my back. That being said, Dennis was diagnosed with cancer and it is very bad. So myself and other officers have been trying to come up with ways to raise money to help Dennis. The polar plunge was the least I could do for him. Dennis is not only a great deputy but he is a good father, husband and a wonderful friend. I hope this in some small way explains why myself and the other officers took the polar plunge.”
Dozens of Macon County residents vowed to take the Polar Plunge in honor of Marna Peck, who lost her life to cancer in 2010. In honor of his mother Marna, Tommy Peck plunged into the Little Tennessee River on Sunday to raise money for the Marna Peck Scholarship fund.
The Marna Peck Memorial Scholarship was set up by a committee of her colleagues from Franklin High School, former students, and children. The $1,000 scholarship is given to a senior at Franklin High School to help with their tuition to whatever university or college they plan on attending. This will be the fifth year giving the scholarship, due in large part to charitable donations and a coed volleyball tournament that was started last year and will be held annually to raise money.
“For the polar plunge, people started doing it in honor of our mother’s scholarship and pledged that if they jump a contribution would be made,” said Tommy Peck. “This was a great feeling to have that people in the community would dare to jump in the freezing water to honor and raise money for the scholarship.”
Regardless of what charity residents plunge for, the challenge is the same: you are given 24 hours to jump into an outdoor, unheated body of water and then donate $10 to the charity of your choice. If you do not want to take the plunge, you can buy your way out of it by donating $25. If you take the plunge, however, you are allowed to nominate others to accept the challenge.
Elected officials were not exempt from the challenge, and some were even targets. Sporting a Captain America mask and a Hello Kitty cape, Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland dove into the freezing waters of the Cullasaja River to raise money for KIDS Place and the Special Olympics. After taking his plunge, Holland challenged the Macon County Board of Commissioners to follow suit.
Cowee Fire Department Chief Dustin Pendergrass, 1st Fire Lieutenant Tyler Blanton and firefighter Brooklynn Burt took a unique route to the plunge by being soaked with 3,000 gallons of water to raise money for the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Fund. “We wanted to change it up a little and do more of a fire department oriented one since our donations will be going to the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Fund,” said Blanton. “We would like to challenge all of our local firefighters to take the plunge and donate to either the NCFFF or a group of their choice.”