Over 127 fearless and fun-loving souls, including local dignitaries and television personalities, braved the cold waters of Anthony Creek on Saturday, Mar. 8 to raise awareness about child abuse as the 11th Annual Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club convened for its yearly meeting in the Monongahela National Forest.
Sunny skies brought out a crowd of over 1,300 who cheered on their favorite plungers – some who donned wacky costumes – as club members raised over $18,000 for the Child and Youth Advocacy Center of Lewisburg. As always, 100% 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.
Congressman Nick Rahall spoke words of encouragement to the plungers before they splashed into the 36-degree water, and he also gave out the “2014 Spirit of Polar Bear Award” to Michael Price of Tennessee. The special award was in the form of a United States flag that Rahall brought from his Washington, DC offices.
A letter of congratulations from West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was also presented to club President Christian M. Giggenbach by Tomblin’s special representative, Kimberly Gross. Gross became a Polar Bear member during the 2013 plunge.
Giggenbach began plunging in Anthony Creek 11 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 300 members and has in total raised nearly $60,000 for the CYAC.
“I want to thank all of our sponsors, the CYAC, our club members 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.”
Each year, club members ask citizens to sponsor them plunging into the water. This year’s top fundraisers were: Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester ($820); Mary Dale Cannon Lauterbach, of Athens, TN ($810); Tammie Smith, of Alderson ($736); David Vest, of Covington, VA ($500) and Adam Criddle, of Lewisburg ($415).
WVVA again served as the event’s media sponsor with television personalities Kristen Conner and Jaime Baker plunging. Conner wore her favorite pair of pajamas and Baker wore a banana suit costume.
A Polar Bear first occurred this year as Eva McVey, of Alderson, sang the Star Spangled Banner during the presentation of the Color Guard by the Greenbrier East High School JROTC. Other highlights included a fly-over by stunt pilot Scott Yoak, a performance by the Half Bad Bluegrass Band, and Penny the D.J. served as the M.C. of the event.
Also new this year was the introduction of Professional Security Services, of Lewisburg, which employed security guards to man the entrance gates, help with parking,and ease traffic flow and congestion. Previous issues with parking and traffic flow were greatly eliminated during this year’s event.
Special thanks goes out to U.S. Forest Service and the Greenbrier County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency for their help in staging the event.
“The outpouring of support for our mission to end child abuse is overwhelming,” Ann Weikle, CYAC executive director, said. “A special thank you goes out to all our sponsors, plungers and the 25 event staff that helped make this happen.”
The next annual meeting of the Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club is scheduled for Mar. 7, 2015. For videos, roster membership, and a complete list of sponsors please visit facebook.com/greenbrierpolarbear.