New Year’s Day for most people means gathering around the fireplace, watching football games or enjoying a helping of black-eyed peas for good luck throughout the year. The annual Polar Bear Plunge is not for most people.
Many years ago Meals on Wheels & More volunteer Wayne Holliday started a tradition of jumping into the Tennessee River on New Year’s Day at high noon as a way to bring in the new year. Each year the crowd grew larger than the year before. In 2017, Wayne estimated that nearly 100 “polar bears” took the plunge.
New Year’s Day 2018 was a bit different than years past. Barely half of the jumpers from 2017 were back in 2018. And for good reason. Participant Michael Tubbs recounts his experience as a local polar bear at the 2018 Polar Bear Plunge:
It was bitterly cold with a wind chill of 9°F. No one who thought of themselves first would jump into the Tennessee River on January 1st. And they didn’t. All those who participated thought of others, namely the recipients of Meals on Wheels & More. The funds raised by the event help feed others with a warm meal delivered to the door. I did it because I promised the staff I would. I did, and I am glad I did.
Local resident and Partnership Director of Real Estate Development Dave Truitt also committed to participating in the plunge well before the forecast was known. Like Mike, Dave fulfilled his promise to take the plunge and has not regretted it.
I can honestly say I love a challenge. So, last year, when we realized that it was going to be below 30 degrees on the day of the Polar Bear Plunge, I got really excited. This year, I really, really hope it’s not below 30 degrees. I would really be o.k. with 60 degrees. But whatever them temperature, I’ll show up. The staff and volunteers at Meals on Wheels are willing to deliver meals to those in our city than might not get a hot meal otherwise. So if they can show up day after day, I can take one cold swim.
Last year was my first year to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge. It was a pleasure to support a program as wonderful and as needed as Meals on Wheels.
This year, I’ll just give $20.
To help generate additional operating dollars for the Meals on Wheels & More program, t-shirts are sold at the event. And hot chocolate is provided free of charge for all participants.
For questions about the 2019 Polar Bear Plunge, call Meals on Wheels & More director Cindy Anderson at 256-260-3103.