EURE – The sun beat down on Beaver Lake near here Saturday morning. However, it failed to warm-up the icy waters, especially with a howling wind blowing in from the west.
Despite those winter weather conditions, the show went on as the sixth annual Polar Plunge took place. There, with a crowd of about 150 watching “high and dry” from the shoreline, over 35 plungers braved the frigid waters, to include a 5-year-old.
Over $5,000 was raised to benefit Gates County Special Olympics.
Helping to make the cold bearable for everyone was the chili challenge. Without the promise of the delicious chili, prepared by a dozen chefs who donated their best recipes of chili, those opting to “take a dip” in the chilly lake might not have taken the plunge.
Along with the annual chili challenge, the Gates County Rescue Squad was on hand to provide breakfast items as well as hotdogs by Special Olympics. C&C’s Creations were on hand with ear warmers and scarves for sale. Ms. Sam Guy, art teacher at Gates County High School, offered face painting as children of all ages enjoyed wearing the frozen artwork on their faces.
The chili challenge winners this year were Leanna Tyler in 1st place (a repeat performance from last year); Lisa Motta in 2nd place; and RJ Cook in 3rd place. Cook also brought the hottest chili to the event, which came complete with a warning level.
“I like spicy food, but this stuff is hot,” said event emcee Paul Toti referencing Cook’s chili entry.
“Thanks to all of our chili chefs for helping to make this event possible,” added Paul’s wife, Barbara, who annually oversees the Polar Plunge. “Without the additional delicious efforts of Tammy Simons, Debra Boyce, Janet Lilley, Barbara Wiant, Heidi Bright and others, we would not have been able to feed all the cold brave plungers.”
The event opened with remarks from one Special Olympian and two parents who spoke about the reasons why this event is necessary. That was followed by the Athlete’s Oath recited by local athletes.
The team challenge was a big hit this year and the competition made it hard for the judges once again. Winning for most creative costume was T.S. Cooper’s Sunbury Spice Girls. Winning for most creative name was Gatesville’s Subzero Heroes, and the Most Entertaining Presentation went to GCHS’s Gruh and the doMINIONaters. Honorable mention went to Buckland’s Panda Expressions.
The winning teams received a traveling Polar Bear Trophy, which will come back each year to be won.
Rounding out the rest of the teams were Drew’s Crew and Stephen’s Super Supporters.
“A big thank you to the team leaders for organizing their teams and to all those who donated to their teams to help them reach their goals,” stated Mrs. Toti. “These dedicated teams are a big reason the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics is a success.”
She added that this event could not have been possible without its host, Beaver Lake Ski Club and its members who worked hard earlier in the week to have the locale ready. Club members pitched in during the day of the event as well, along with providing the wood for the bonfire.
Along with Beaver Lake Ski Club, Special Olympics Gates County and Project Unify would like to thank the following sponsors: Central Ford, Inc. of Ahoskie, Metal Tech, Inc. of Murfreesboro, Oak Grove Christian Church and Dixie Auto Parts of Sunbury at the Ambassador sponsorship level of $500. The Gold sponsor ($300) is Hall Ruritan Club. Silver sponsors this year included NexxIINun Ryderz, Gatesville Ruritans, Drew’s Crew, Jonathan and Courtney Jones, and Gatesville Elementary School. Bronze ($100) sponsors this year were Katherine’s Beauty Nook, Mr. AF Stallings, WOM Cool Springs Baptist Church, Sunbury Ruritans, and SECU-Gatesville.
“Without their generous support, this event and our Tread The Mill Walk would not be successful. Because of the donations from our sponsors and those taking the plunge, our athletes are able to travel and compete, as the closest competition is Greenville, with other competitions in Smithfield, Durham, Raleigh and Fayetteville,” Mrs. Toti said.
Special thanks and recognition was given to the Gates County Rescue Squad and Gates County Emergency Management Service for their presence at and in the lake.
“Without their willingness to be a part of the safety net for our plungers, we could not have this event,” she said.
Mrs. Toto continued by saying, “GCHS Project Unify and Gates County Special Olympics would like to thank the Gates County community and the Gates County Schools Community. Without the support of our community’s schools, church congregations, civic organizations and citizens, this event would not be able to continue. Because of the tremendous support from our schools and local businesses, each year the event has grown. This year’s crowd braving the waters was smaller, but that didn’t stop the fundraising, and the fun raising.”
Special recognition was given to Joe Harrell and the Gates County Schools Maintenance staff for their hard work is preparing the stage for the event. Also contributing to the success of the event was the hard work by the volunteers who helped put the event together, helped with set ups, cleanup, registration, team judging, chili judging, the bonfire, concessions and much, much more.
Special thanks was given to the following people: Jennifer and Jonathan Hayes, Debra Boyce, Sherri Russell, Paul Toti, Barbara Wiant, Matt and Beth Biggy, Ashley Toti, Nolan Toti, Steve Kennedy, Lulu Eure, Teri Campbell, Beaver Lake Ski Club members, Sam Guy, GC Rescue Squad, Stormy Butts, Tosha, Tony and Cora Fradillada, Ed Geis, Gail Hawkins, Jonathan Jones, Alex and Alex Hurdle, BB and Tammy Simons, Nell Eason, Joseph Hurdle, the Forsman family , Ginny and AL Hurdle, Gail Hawkins, Ben Hawkins, Ally Sarnowski, Anne and Cody Brinkley, Stephen Halley, JT Green, Tremayne Knight, Nyasia Luke, Jetta Cameron-Pas, Rayshawn Gatling, Special Olympics athletes, and the many others not named who pitched in that day to help make things go smoothly.
Plans are already under way for the 7th annual Tread The Mill 2017 (last Saturday in October) and the 7th annual Polar Plunge 2018 (last Saturday in January).
“We hope you will join us at the Millpond in the fall and Beaver Lake in January. We’d love to see church youth groups, school clubs, civic organizations and our local government join in the fun. It’s never too early to be thinking about walking and freezin’ for many wonderful reasons— our local Special Olympics athletes,” Mrs. Toti concluded.