ST. GEORGE — On New Year’s Day, a handful of brave souls – kids and adults alike – gathered at Quail Creek Reservoir in Quail Creek State Park to participate in what could be called a rite of passage into the new year: A polar plunge.
Organized by Dig Paddlesports Kayak and SUP Rentals, the event was designed to both kick off the new year as well as benefit a local nonprofit organization doing good in the community.
Dig Paddlesports marketing manager Tamra Stephenson, who organized the event, said she wanted to create something that could bring the community together and start off a new year.
“I think it’s just a great idea to say ‘let’s wash out 2020 and start it new,'” she said.
Registration for the event was free but participants were asked to make a monetary or in-kind donation to the Washington County Children’s Justice Center, which was the benefiting nonprofit of Friday’s plunge.
Stephenson said she chose the justice center because she knows that they are always in need of donations and to remind the community of the need to benefit the good work the organization does.
According to information from their website, the Washington County Children’s Justice Center is “a homelike, child-friendly facility where children who have been victims of abuse or other crimes can begin the road to healing. We work with our multidisciplinary partners to protect each child, advance justice, promote healing, and educate our community.”
Michelle Smith, a board member of the Washington County Children’s Justice Center said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and children staying home more, the center saw an increase in interviews of potential child abuse victims.
“It’s sad,” Smith said, “but it’s nice that we have a place where they can go into a home-like environment and not be re-traumatized by going to the hospital and being interviewed over and over again.”
Money raised from the fundraiser goes toward anything and everything to help keep the facility operational, Smith said, adding that she encourages anyone who is interested to check out the center and learn what they do.
With water temperatures of approximately 47 degrees and air temperatures hovering around 43 degrees with sunny skies, it wasn’t a polar plunge like those in the great north where ice crusts the water, but it was cold enough to elicit audible gasps from participants – some of whom were dressed in costumes – who were able to choose to jump from the end of the dock, the side of the dock or run into the water from the boat ramp.
Emergency personnel and support kayaks as well as warming stations and hot chocolate and coffee were on site for participants.
Stephenson said she was very happy with Friday’s turnout and looks forward to next year.
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