There couldn’t have been a more perfect day for a swim – or a leap – into Lake Lanier than Saturday.
With a bright blue sunny sky and warm sun, participants in the annual Leap for Literacy were ready to cool down and raise money for WEE Books, a local nonprofit organization aimed at providing a free book each month to Dawson County children aged 0-5 enrolled in their program.
“We’ve had the most beautiful day we’ve ever had – weather wise and temperature wise – and we’re in good spirits,” said Marge Carey, cofounder of WEE Books.
This year’s Leap for Literacy fundraiser raised $5,000 and counting, with more donations pledged according to WEE Books Treasurer Arlene McClure.
With 878 Dawson County children enrolled in WEE Books’ free program, it takes at least $25,000 a year to keep the program going, meaning every penny from Saturday’s benefit at War Hill Park really counts.
“This is a great organization. Getting kids started early with reading is exactly what we need,” said Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond. “Reading is the key to being successful. It’s a great cause and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The chairman made a promise two years ago. If he was elected, he would leap. The time finally came for him to deliver.
“I’m living up to that commitment,” said Thurmond. “I’m excited that it’s 70 degrees for sure. It is a nice day to do it.”
After he was the first to leap off the dock, the crowd went wild and raised an additional $850 to see Thurmond do a second jump. Refusing to go alone, Thurmond roped District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines, who volunteered to run the sound system for the event, into jumping alongside him.
Dawson County Emergency Services were also on standby making sure everyone stayed safe during the morning’s festivities.
And they almost had to jump into action.
Ken Goines, owner of KG Cleaning Service, dressed in a big fur Yeti suit. He ran down to the dock and jumped straight into the lake.
“The (mask) I couldn’t take it off. I couldn’t see where I was going,” said Goines.
The suit became heavy from being soaked in water and Goines struggled to get back to the dock. Gaines grabbed his arm and helped pull him out of the water. It’s something Goines said he won’t try again next year, but he’ll gladly jump off the dock…sans the suit.
But jumping in the Yeti suit wasn’t his first choice.
“I wanted to get a helicopter but they wouldn’t do it,” Goines joked.
The day’s biggest sponsor, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, donated towels embroidered by a local volunteer, which were given to all participants who jumped into the lake.
“They are our major donor making this event a financial success,” said WEE Books President Sue Poynter. “We especially thank Jo Brewer for always being there for the children of Dawson County.”
Also donating to WEE Books was Kroger, Publix and Starbucks, providing food and coffee Saturday morning.
There were even awards given for the best of the three categories. They were given as follows:
Best Individual Leaper: Ken Goines as the ‘Yeti’
Most Creative Individual Leaper: Page Arnette, principal at Robinson Elementary School
Best Leaping Team: Dawson County High School Interact Club
Most Creative Leaping Team: Billy Thurmond and Chris Gaines
Best Ramp Running Team: RIC Rack
Most Creative Ramp Running Team: The Juniorettes
Most Creative Toe Tapping Team: The Dawsonville Red Hat Society
Best Toe Tapping Team: Dawson County Woman’s Club