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Chetola Lake Polar Plunge Benefits Western North Carolina Charity

Source: High Country Press

On a cold North Carolina day in the mountains, people young and well-seasoned gathered at Chetola Lake dressed as everything from a polar bear to the Macho Man Randy Savage.

Just thinking about Macho Man makes me want a Slim Jim. For the record, this was not a pay-per-view Wrestlemania main event match between a wrestling superstar and a beast of nature, but more of a fun but frigid way to make a change. 

The goal: take a dive or in winter terms “polar plunge” into Chetola Lake and benefit those in need. This annual event attracts plungers and fans from around the state. Spectators began to gather around Chetola Lake around 9 am to witness the wet and cold tradition. 

88-year-old Joan Hearn dressed in a bear costume for the annual event. It is worth noting that Joan is a seasoned veteran of the event. “This is my 30th jump,” Hearn said. “It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve done it many years, even back when it was held at the duck pond.”

This event is bigger than people dressed up in costumes to take a dip in cold winter waters. This is about a community coming together to help those in need from many walks of life. Proceeds from the 2023 Polar Bear Plunge benefit two local charities; the Hunger & Health Coalition and High Country Caregivers. 

The mission of the Hunger and Health Coalition is to relieve poverty and hunger compassionately for families and individuals who are experiencing economic hardship and food shortages. This assistance may include food, medicine, wood, and referrals to other community resources. 

“We’re trying to raise money for a new dishwasher in our recovery kitchen,” said Melissa Pickett, financial director at the Hunger and Health Coalition. “The funds from the Polar Bear Plunge will go a long way to reaching our goal.”

The High Country Caregivers support families battling the opioid and substance abuse crisis in the area. The region has seen a rise in substance abuse as the primary cause of children needing kinship care.  

“Our Goal is to rise above the challenges and keep loved ones at home,”  executive director of High Country Caregivers Jacob Willis said. “It’s a better environment than the foster system. We are dedicated to keeping these families whole so grandparents can provide care, support, and responsible decisions for their grandchildren.”

As participants prepared to take the plunge, they were asked why they were jumping. Many of the participants named organizations in their community that serve those in need. As for 88-year-old Joan, someone paid $1,000 anonymously to see her take the plunge.

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