UPDATE: Development Authority of Dawson County awarded $300,000 grant to help with manufacturer BTD’s local expansion project.
BTD's local campus expansion is set to bring 74 new full-time jobs to the new Dawson County facility.
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Leap in the Lake raises $6,000
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woman's club

More than 150 Dawson County residents on Saturday supported or participated in the annual Wee Books Leap into Lake Lanier.

Six teams did a full-body plunge into the frigid 45-degree water to raise money to support the program that provides free books for children from birth to age five. The teams were: Kinsey Farm, Ric-Rack, Dawson County High School Interact Club, Juniorettees, the Dawson News & Advertiser, and the Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS).

We made a fraction under $6,000, Jane Graves, president of the Dawson County Wee Books program, said. It just keeps getting bigger.

Graves husband, Lionel, serves as chair of Wee Books.

Each year organizing and holding LEAP is a bit like trying to nail down Jello, he said. We never know exactly who is going to turn up to get wet. Each year, this event has grown in participants, spectators and donations. This years surpassed them all, not just because of the donations, but in the incredible support from so many diverse groups in our community . . ..

Six other teams pulled off their shoes and tapped their toes into the water to help Wee Books. They were Altrusa, the Dawson County Humane Society, the Dawson County Rotary Club, which brought 40 of its members; the Lake Ladies, and Betty Wagenhauser, president of Ferst Foundation of Georgia.

The mission of Ferst Foundation is to provide books for local communities to prepare all Georgia preschool children for reading and learning success, according to the groups website.

Rolling up their pants legs and striding into the water during the ramp run were Team USA Rampettes, better known as the Dawson County Womans Club (DCWC), and students from Dawson County Middle School.

Individual leapers were Mike McKenzie, Brian Burke, County Commissioner Gary Pichon, Jim King, and George and Jordan Parson.

Judges were Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg, Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford, and Jan Whetstone, owner of Jans Family Daycare.

We have a sizable illiterate population that people dont see, Berg said. We have a lot of poverty here, and it shows up because folks cant read. Its always a benefit to start children reading at a young age. (This was a) super event . . . Dawson County citizens are always very supportive. This is just another example of how great our county is.

Swafford agrees.

I think its a fundamental responsibility of a society to make sure our young people have the opportunity to learn to read at home, he said.

Judges handed out framed certificates to the Lake Ladies for Best Toe Tap; Team USA Rampettes (DCWC) for Best Ramp Run; Gary Pichon for Best Leaper; Kinsey Farm 2 for Best Leaping Team, and the Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) for being a Champion Sponsor. Awards also went out for Most Creative Performance, Team USA Rampettes; Most Creative Performance to the Juniorettes, and a second most creative performance went to Mike McKenzie.

Next year, Graves said, we will have to expand our recognition categories as the lunacy of leaping for literacy grows.

All Dawson County children are eligible to participate in the literacy program. To sign up your child for the Wee Books program, call 706-216-0173, visit the library or the Dawson News & Advertiser office for a registration form, or email

See more Leap for Literacy photos on our website