Chilled to the bone!

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The first wave of approximately 60 individuals race into the cold waters of the Chowan River at Tuscarora Beach on Saturday where they took part in the third annual Polar Plunge to benefit Hertford County Special Olympics. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

WINTON – Shivers of happiness….that’s perhaps the best way to describe the collective feelings of approximately 60 people that braved the chilled water of the Chowan River near here Saturday.

For the third consecutive year, Hertford County Special Olympics staged a Polar Plunge as a means to generate funds for this worthwhile program that assists children and adults with intellectual disabilities. For each of those years, Riverside Restaurant on the shoreline of Tuscarora Beach has opened its doors to help host the event.

“On behalf of our athletes, our volunteers, and our families involved with Special Olympics, I thank you for your involvement with this program,” stated Lori Heckler, coordinator for Hertford County Special Olympics. “We give special thanks to Riverside Restaurant for their hospitality in letting us stage the Polar Plunge here for the third year in a row. This is a beautiful spot to hold this event.”

Hertford County Special Olympian Joel Fennell made remarks on behalf of the local program at Hertford County High School. Fennell, a gold medalist in volleyball who also excels at bowling, just recently completed his Global Ambassador training. He was making his first public speech at Saturday’s Polar Plunge.

“Special Olympics has meant the world to me. I have traveled and met new friends. I have learned to bowl and run track. Please support Special Olympics. It’s a good way to help a child in need,” Fennell said.

Heckler added that the true community spirit of Hertford County was on full display at the event. She praised the event sponsors – Gold Level: Southern Bank of Ahoskie, Metal Tech of Murfreesboro, Nucor Steel of Hertford County, and Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital; Silver Level: Kruger School of Graphic Communications at Chowan University; and Bronze Level: Jernigan Oil and Propane, Pro Med Equipment and Supplies, Trinity for Women, Benchmark Building and Irrigation and Berry Plastics – for their loyal support.

“So many of those sponsors joined us three years ago and have remained with us and we really appreciate their involvement in helping to promote our Special Olympics program,” Heckler noted.

Individuals are key to the success of Special Olympics as well. Heckler said generous donations came from HCHS School Nurse Anita Thompson (through a “Pay it Forward” effort with her friends on Facebook) and from Rev. Jeff Douglas and Beth Douglas.

“We also added a ‘beat’ this year by welcoming DJ Jay Jenkins of ‘Shagging on the Beach’ (which broadcasts Sunday afternoons on WDLZ-FM in Murfreesboro),” Heckler said. “It was so much fun to have him here, helping to make this event more entertaining.”

The community involvement even branched out to local government as the Town of Ahoskie’s Parks and Recreation Department allowed Heckler to borrow a large tent for use as a warming and changing area after these brave souls plunged into the river.

To provide a level of safety, Hertford County EMS was on hand, as well as a lifeguard.

As the horn sounded at 12:30 p.m., the plungers showed no fear of the chilly waters….made even more “refreshing” due to the recent cold snap. While many waded out at least waist deep, a few opted to dive underneath the river’s surface. None seemed any worse for their wear upon wading back to shore.

“It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be,” said one participant, joining her friends on dry ground.

Several teams were represented, including Shagging on the Beach, Southern Bank, Project Unify from Riverview School, Roanoke-Chowan Community College School of Nursing, and Commercial Ready Mix Products.

The nursing students – aka, the “Pajamanators” – won the costume contest.

Heckler said the funds raised from Polar Plunge helps to support Special Olympics athletes from Hertford County to compete in volleyball, bowling and track and field. She said there are currently 15 athletes involved in the program.

Project Unify programs at Hertford County High School, Middle School and Early College High School as well as at Riverview Elementary and C.S. Brown High School are also a vital part of Special Olympics.

“The young people involved in Project Unify help serve in several different capacities,” Heckler said. “They accompany us when we travel; they are there with us during our home events. It’s go great to have their involvement.”

Additional funds were raised on Saturday through a Chinese Auction. Heckler thanked those making donations to the auction, to include Tavern 125, Ace Hardware of Ahoskie, NAPA Auto Parts, Food Lion of Murfreesboro, Napoli’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant, Chowan University, Sinfully Sweet, Beechwood Country Club, Melody Jo Williams (thirty-one consultant), Old Country Store, Expressions by Tim and Lorrie, and Stitches Too.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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