By Emma Castleberry
The Haywood Waterways Association (HWA) and the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center will host the 7th Annual Plunge Benefit-t-t-ting Kids in the Creek & Environmental Education on Saturday, February 2. Kids in the Creek, a program that gives middle school students an opportunity to learn about water quality in the Pigeon River, has reached more than 14,000 students in its 21- year history. “Much of HWA’s work focuses on educating the public about clean water and all the ways it’s used: for drinking, wildlife, recreation, tourism, agriculture and industry,” says Eric Romaniszyn, executive director of HWA. “We believe it’s the best long-term solution for protecting local rivers and streams and improving those that are degraded. The Plunge has become a great tool for supporting our programs.”
This year’s plunge will take place at the Lake Junaluska beach from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost to participate is $25, which can be paid individually or raised through sponsorships. Participants can choose to wade in from the beach or take the full-body immersion plunge off of the boat dock. All participants receive a free t-shirt and lunch and there will be bonfires and heated changing rooms available. Prizes are awarded for best costumes and top fundraisers.
Bill Eaker suggested the plunge at a HWA board planning session eight years ago. “With our focus on water, we felt a polar plunge fundraiser was a perfect fit for us,” he says. “Over the years it has grown as a fundraiser, but also become a wonderful ‘friendraiser’ for our organization. We’re reaching all segments of the community and informing a lot of new folks about our water quality protection work. This has resulted in new members, increased attendance at our events and additional volunteers.”
Eaker is quick to add that the event is not limited to Haywood County residents. “We encourage folks from adjacent counties to come join the fun,” he says. “We want to make it a regional event.” While Eaker is thrilled that the annual plunge has become a successful fundraiser, it’s the fun of the event that he values the most. “As a 62-year-old man, I’m just excited that the plunge gives adults an opportunity to dress up in costumes, jump in a cold lake, act a little crazy and have great fun,” he says. “It’s kind of like Halloween for adults.”
To donate or register, visit CrowdRise.com/7thAnnualHWAPlunge. To learn more about the event or Haywood Waterway’s programs, visit HaywoodWaterways.org or contact Romaniszyn at 828.476.4667 or firstname.lastname@example.org. An after-plunge party and benefit will be held at 5:30 p.m. at Balsam Ridge Gallery, 44 North Main Street, in downtown Waynesville.