BLUE BEND —
More than 130 fearless and fun-loving souls, including local dignitaries and television personalities, braved the cold waters of Anthony Creek March 9 to raise awareness about child abuse as the 10th Annual Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club convened for its yearly meeting in the Monongahela National Forest.
Sunny skies brought out a crowd of about 1,300 who cheered on their favorite plungers, some who donned wacky costumes, as club members from seven states — Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia — participated in the event.
The event raised more than $17,300 for the Child and Youth Advocacy Center of Lewisburg, a nonprofit organization that counsels and interviews child abuse victims from Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas counties. All previous records for plunger participation, spectators and money raised were shattered in the 2013 plunge, the club reported.
A letter from West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was presented to club president Christian M. Giggenbach by special representative Kimberly Gross. Gross later became a club member by plunging herself.
Tomblin praised those involved with the event.
“It’s my privilege to recognize this celebration as a very special West Virginia tradition,” Tomblin said. “Congratulations, Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club, on a job well done.”
Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, presented a certificate of recognition from the state Senate, signed also by Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, Clerk of the Senate Joseph M. Minard and Sen. William Laird, D-Fayette.
Miller also presented the “Spirit of Polar Bear” award, a United States flag, to George Piasecki, of Lewisburg.
Giggenbach began plunging in Anthony Creek 10 years ago to honor his late mother, Kay Sweet Giggenbach. In 2008, he asked the CYAC to become the fundraising arm for his club, whose membership now totals about 200.
Club members ask citizens to sponsor their plunging into the water. This year’s top fundraisers were: Steve Gottshall, Caldwell, $600; Mary Cannon, Athens, Tenn., $600; Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester, $575; and Adam Criddle, Lewisburg, $520.
Major sponsors for the event included Shirley Runyon and family, WVVA, the law firm of Robert J. Frank and Associates, Little Black Box Lingerie and the CYAC.
“The outpouring of support for our mission to end child abuse is overwhelming,” said Ann Weikle, CYAC executive director.
For videos, roster membership and a complete list of sponsors, visit www.facebook.com/greenbrierpolarbear.
The 2014 meeting of the Greenbrier Valley Polar Bear Plunge Club is scheduled for March 8.