The 14th annual Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge is set for Saturday, Mar. 11, beginning at 1 p.m. and will be held at a new venue this year, the Ronceverte Island Park.
Due to extensive damage to Blue Bend caused by last June’s floods, Polar Bear officials made the decision to plunge into the Greenbrier River at Ronceverte. Future plunges will continue once Blue Bend has been restored to normal by the National Forest Service.
“The footbridge leading to the large beach was washed out and roughly half of the flagstone has been upended,” Greenbrier Polar Bear President Christian Giggenbach said. “It’s not possible to hold the event there. The Forest Service has told me funding has been secured to fix the issues. When we knew Blue Bend was no longer an option, The Ronceverte Island Park immediately was our first choice for the new venue.”
Each year, Polar Bear members seek out sponsorships to plunge and 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the nonprofit Child and Youth Advocacy Center of Lewisburg. The CYAC interviews and counsels sexually abused children in Greenbrier, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties and aids in the prosecution of sex offenders. Over 400 fearless individuals have earned their Polar Bear membership cards through the years and since 2005, over $80,000 has been raised.
“We want to thank all the plungers, sponsors and volunteers who go the extra mile to combat child abuse in our region,” CYAC Executive Director Kat Thompson said. “We are proud of our association with the Polar Bear Club and look forward to seeing everyone again this year.”
Club members from all across West Virginia and seven separate states, including Tennessee, North Carolina and Ohio, have plunged in the yearly event. In 2013, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin proclaimed the event a “special West Virginia tradition,” and the plunge was also named a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 event for 2014. Many plungers also dress up in their favorite family friendly costumes to win prizes.
“The psychological fear of the cold water is much greater than actually going in,” Giggenbach said. “But that pales in comparison to the fear that sexually abused children in our area live with every moment of the day. We all jump in to help protect those innocent children.”
Currently, Polar Bears are roaming the area seeking plunge sponsorships. Businesses may be listed on Polar Bear T-shirts and in the program guide. Plungers who raise at least $25 will receive a Polar Bear T-shirt. A new component this year will be the ability to register plungers online. Go to www.childandyouthadvocacy.org and click on “Events.” Fundraising packets can also be picked up at the CYAC or Little Black Box Lingerie in Lewisburg.
Penny The DJ will serve as master of ceremonies for the event which also includes the Greenbrier East JROTC, club members singing the “Ode to Polar Bear” song and the Polar Bear Spirit Award presentation. The food vendor will be When Pigs Fly barbecue.
The Polar Bear Plunge was originally created as a tribute to the club president’s late mother, Kay Sweet Giggenbach, who would have been overjoyed at the sight of everyone running into such freezing water. For more information, contact the CYAC at 304-645-4668 or visit facebook.com/greenbrierpolarbear.