Over 75 fearless and fun-loving souls braved the cold waters of Anthony Creek on Saturday, Mar. 5, to raise awareness about child abuse as the 13th Annual Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club convened for its yearly meeting in the Monongahela National Forest.
Club members raised over $12,000 for the Child and Youth Advocacy Center of Lewisburg. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefited the 501-c-3, nonprofit organization that interviews and counsels sexually abused children in Greenbrier, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties, so that offenders may be prosecuted.
The top fundraisers this year were Ann Weikle, of Salt Sulphur Springs ($1,100); Tammie Smith, of Alderson ($843) and Jay Bowling, of White Sulphur Springs ($510.)
Kimberly Gross, special representative to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, spoke words of encouragement to the plungers before their big splash. “People from all over the state talk about this Polar Bear Plunge event. It’s something to really be proud of.” Gross became a Polar Bear member in 2013. Previously, Tomblin has called the event a “special West Virginia tradition.” The event has been also named a Southeastern Tourism Top 20 Event.
The “Spirit of Polar Bear” award was given to CYAC Executive Director Katherine Thompson by Polar Bear Club President Christian Giggenbach. Giggenbach began plunging in Anthony Creek 13 years ago to honor his late mother, Kay Sweet Giggenbach. In 2008, he asked the CYAC to become the fundraising arm for his club. His polar bear club now has about 350 members and has in total raised nearly $75,000 for the CYAC.
“I want to thank all of our sponsors, the CYAC, our club members, volunteers and all the individuals from the community who gave donations for this year’s plunge,” Giggenbach said. “We promise to work even harder next year to raise funds to end child abuse in our community.”
WVVA again served as the event’s media sponsor, the food vendor was When Pigs Fly, entertainment was provided by the Half Bad Bluegrass Band, and Penny the D.J. served as the M.C. of the event. CLB Security, of Lewisburg, was there to man the entrance gates, help with parking, and ease traffic flow and congestion.
Special thanks go out to the U.S. Forest Service, the Greenbrier County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Lewisburg Boy Scout Troop 70 and Phoenix Steele for their help in staging the event.
“The outpouring of support for our mission to end child abuse can plainly be see here at Blue Bend,” Thompson said. “We truly appreciate all of our sponsors, plungers and all of the volunteer event staff that helped make this event successful again.”
The next annual meeting of the Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club is scheduled for Mar. 5, 2017.