A Plunge with the Haywood Waterways Association
By Gina Malone
The Haywood Waterways Association (HWA) is once again inviting intrepid souls to jump into the lake for a good cause. Its 5th Annual Polar Plunge will be held Saturday, February 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Lake Junaluska Assembly beach in Waynesville.
Plungers donate $25 or obtain sponsorships, with all proceeds benefiting HWA’s Kids in the Creek and other educational programs. Last year, according to HWA executive director Eric Romaniszyn, 160 people waded, ran or dove into the frigid waters. The depth of immersion is a purely personal choice.
“If you just stick a toe in, that qualifies,” says Bill Eaker, a founding member of HWA. As promoters of the event, he and Romaniszyn plunge every year, even the year that officials had to use chainsaws to cut through the ice at lake’s edge.
Bethel Middle School science teacher Amy Harrington has participated with a team of fellow teachers for the past three years. “The entire morning of the plunge is a blast,” she says, with “music, a bonfire, face paint and silly costumes, and energetic groups of friends crazy enough to jump into a freezing cold lake for something they are all passionate about.”
The Kids in the Creek program, in its 19th year, brings volunteers and scientists from educational and environmental groups to teach eighth-graders the importance of learning to be good stewards of our waterways.
“The experience teaches them the importance of caring for their own environment much better than any book ever could,” Harrington says. “It’s usually their first field trip of the year, and they are so enthralled with what they’re doing that they don’t even realize how much they are learning.”
All Plungers receive a free t-shirt and lunch, and prizes are awarded for best costumes and top fundraisers.
For more details, call 828.476.4667 or visit haywoodwaterways.org. Donate or become a Plunger by visiting crowdrise.com/5thannualpolarplunge. Associate editor Gina Malone is seeking readers to join her in doing the Plunge!