Plungers take an icy dip in Junaluska

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Feb 01, 2014
Photo by: Jessi Stone

About 100 brave souls jumped into the icy water of Lake Junaluska Saturday morning to raise money for the Haywood Waterways Association's Kids in the Creek program.

Lake Junaluska and Haywood Waterways staff spent a lot of time of Friday chopping up the ice near the beach so plungers would be able to jump in the 30-dgree water on Saturday.

Organizers were thrilled to see attendance increase from about 30 plungers last year to more than 90 this year. Some plungers jumped from the small dock while others ran into the water from the shore.

With beautiful 57 degree weather, hundreds of spectators also came out to support the plunge and to see the priceless faces of those coming out of the water.

Bill Eaker, Haywood Waterways board member, said he made a bet with his son Ryan Eaker to see who could raise the most money for the fundraiser. It was obvious who the loser was when Bill Eaker walked out to the Polar Plunge wearing a wedding dress and all the accessories — veil, makeup and high heels.

The goal was to raise $10,000 for the Kids in the Creek program and as of Friday evening, the event had raised about $15,000. A final number will be tallied in the next few days. Since the program costs about $9,000 each year, organizers are very pleased with the amount of support and money raised.

Before taking the plunge, HWA Executive Director Eric Romaniszyn told the audience about the Kids in the Creek Program, which allows the HWA to take eighth-grade students in Haywood to the Pigeon River to learn about water quality and marine biology.

"Many students have said it was one of their most memorable times from eighth grade so we want to continue that," he said. "This will be our seventeenth year doing the program so we figure more than 11,000 students have participated."

Many teachers and former Kids in the Creek participants were on hand to show their support of the program by jumping in the lake, including Andrew Bowen of Waynesville, who wore his 2003 Kids in the Creek T-shirt from his eighth-grade year.

Most of the participants dressed up in crazy costumes, including Shannon Rabby who one first place in the costume contest for his "Voodoo man" get up.