by Robert Mason Jr.
After years of covering the Camp Kekoka Polar Bear Plunge, I finally took the fall.
Record reporter Madison White Franks volunteered to cover the event, so I had no excuse.
And when two lovely women suggest I do something, naturally my goal is to please them.
That’s how I ended up splashing around in Indian Creek last Saturday.
I almost talked myself out of it. Next time, I won’t arrive for registration so early. While I had a cup of coffee, thoughts of returning to the cozy comfort of my bed were hard to shed.
But when the countdown started, there I was, “Freezin for a Reason” on the Camp Kekoka shoreline. In the company of more than 30 other plungers, I didn’t feel so foolish.
I staked out a direct path to the fire barrel anticipating a chilly return.
The last to enter the water, I hustled out to a little over waste deep before plunging under, ignoring the advice of camp director Cassie Leichty, who suggested going in about knee-deep and falling.
For a successful plunge, the head must be totally submerged. That’s important for donations. We must be true to our sponsors.
“I got this!” Or so I thought.
Over my shoulder, I heard my friend Lindsy Gardner shouting, “Bob go under, drop Bob.”
The moment I went under, I realized the error of my ways. The euphoria was short-lived, not as intense as chef Patrick Busby’s pan-seared rockfish at the old Mooring Restaurant in Kinsale.
The shock zapped my strength. Struggling to resurface, it quickly occurred to me to just stand up.
I turned and began my trek back to the shore. While the push out was almost effortless, the return was quite challenging. I felt like I was halfway across the creek and would never get to shore.
“I’m gonna die.” The headline “Plunger succumbs” flashed across my field of vision. But who would write it?
Exhilaration overtook resistance as I stepped foot on the beach.
Reaching for my towel, I knew I had to get out of my wet clothes. But the outdoor temperature of 47 degrees was pleasantly warming compared to the 44-degree water. As polar plunges go, it wasn’t as frigid as most.
While the others headed over to the dining hall, I changed into long johns, jeans and flannel right there in the open. Now that’s invigorating.
Lunch was waiting. The plungers and their support teams enjoyed hot chocolate, hot apple cider, cheese and crackers, chips and dip, chili, meat balls, macaroni and cheese, a variety of soups and chowders, cookies and donuts.
I hope it’s colder for the ninth annual plunge next year so I’ll have something to compare to this experience.
Meanwhile, I’m accepting suggestions for a costume and refining my strategy.
I won’t arrive so early for registration.
I’ll not go out as far and I’ll turn back to shore before I plunge.
I’m also issuing a challenge to co-workers at the Record and chums at the Southside Sentinel. Take the plunge. I dare you.
How about a friendly little competition among the local news agencies to see who can field the most plungers and raise the most money for Camp Kekoka’s Guardian Program?
The scholarship fund ensures every child gets to experience Camp Kekoka, regardless of their ability to pay.
Thanks to all the sponsors, the recent plunge raised over $7,000.
Every kid deserves a camp experience.
To donate, contact Leichty at 435-3616, or firstname.lastname@example.org.