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“Shocking ... Breathtaking ... chillingly cold.”
These were the words used by Lisa Barwick to describe the exact moment Saturday morning that she plunged into Lake Lanier.
Thompson Creek Park was the venue for the inaugural Leap For Literacy, a Polar Bear Plunge-style fundraiser to benefit Dawson County WEE Books’ youth literacy efforts.
At an estimated 47 degrees, the waters of Lanier were much cooler than Saturday’s unseasonably warm weather.
Barwick said she was “not prepared for [the water’s temperature] in any way, shape or form.”
“I mean, it was cold,” she said.
Bobby Samples with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office agreed.
“It’s real, real cold,” Samples said. “It takes your breath away when you jump in. No doubt about it.”
Samples and several other emergency workers stayed by the dock Saturday in case they were needed. Samples wore a wet suit to keep warm.
Barwick and other volunteer jumpers had no such luxury.
“I’m better as a participant in most things than as an observer,” said Barwick, who came with her friends, the Burke family.
“When they said they needed someone to jump in with them as a team, I decided to do it. I’m all about the teamwork and all about a good cause.”
The cause was childhood literacy.
WEE Books President Lionel Graves said the program is distributing books to 650 local children this year. That’s 200 more than last year.
Graves was pleased with Saturday’s turnout.
“We’re hoping it builds on the success of this year, and I think people here had fun, so hopefully we’ll do it again next year,” Graves said.
Along with the icy plunge into Lanier, the event featured contests for best costume, funniest routine and oldest leaper.
Doug Powell won for oldest leaper, while best costume awards went to Keith Porter for his “Where’s Waldo” outfit and team Hazardous Conditions.
Will Wade, Pete Hill and Doug Powell from Dawson County’s Rotary Club earned funniest routine honors for their literary-themed garb and comedic skit.
WEE Books is entering its fifth year as an independent, nonprofit literacy program that promotes reading for young children.