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Literacy enthusiasts take the plunge
3. Leap pic 2
Brothers Matt and James Holton and Cole Smith jump as part of the ramp-running team for the high schools Interact club. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

After nearly three weeks of freezing rain, ice and snow, the weekend seemed like a great day for a swim for some Dawson County reading advocates.

WEE Books held its fifth annual Leap for Literacy at War Hill Park Saturday, despite - or perhaps, because of - the 37 degree weather.

The event benefits Dawson County WEE Books, a program developed to put age-appropriate books in the hands of preschool children.

"Considering the winter storm conditions in the weeks leading up to LEAP, this year this was a marvelous outcome," said WEE Books volunteer Jane Graves. "While the wind chill was biting, particularly for those brave enough to wear shorts, the water temperature was warmer than last year."

The event saw approximately 70 people get wet in one way or another, ranging from the ‘toe-tappers' that get only a small part of their feet wet to the ‘ramp-runners,' that take the full-immersion plunge into the lake.

"It was cold. The water is actually warmer, but going in, the EMS crew told me only shallow dives this year," said Brian Burke, one of this year's individual leapers. "I understood, because as soon as I hit the water, it takes your breath away. I did the turn and swam back pretty fast."

Burke, a local optometrist and Rotarian, is working in connection with Dawson County WEE Books to help the local nonprofit raise money for its campaign to educate the county's children.

"We raised some money last year for WEE Books by me doing a bike ride through the Colorado Mountains. I'm doing the same thing this year, but I'm going to Paris, France this time," he said. "I'll be going from Paris to a small town on the coast called Brest and then back to Paris. I'll be one of 8,000 riders from 35 different countries doing this. We would like to utilize my bike ride to raise some money for WEE Books."

Burke's Colorado ride raised about $2,200 for the literacy group, something he hopes to duplicate or surpass this year.

As for the Leap, WEE Books is estimating the event raised around $4,600.

All leapers who jumped into the lake were awarded a custom T-shirt for "Freezin' for a Reason." The best and most creative performances were also recognized with framed certificates.

"Every year, this becomes more amazing as to how many people will actually do this," said event emcee Warren King. "The crowd gets bigger every year and we thank everyone for it."

Supporters raised money to purchase books for local children. The jumpers come dressed in costumes and ready to give a performance to entice the judges, who will be on hand to give awards for various categories.

WEE Books is currently serving about 750 children, who receive an age appropriate book each month until they turn five years old. The books are free to participants, though fundraisers like the lake leap support the cause.

Events like Leap for Literacy, in addition to raising funds, also aim to serve as a springboard to spotlight the free book program.

For more information about WEE Books or the Leap for Literacy event, call (706) 216-0173.