by Allison Haver
Although the event was held under sunny skies with temperatures in the 50s, participants still had to brave 35 degree water temperatures to raise money for Special Olympics athletes in Watauga County.
Watauga County law enforcement agencies and Watauga County Parks and Recreation sponsor the event, which raised a total of $8,010 this year.
According to Keron Poteat, the local coordinator for the Special Olympics during the past 15 years, the event has raised more than $100,000 for Special Olympics Watauga County, which provides the annual operating budget for the organization.
"It's awesome that within two hours, because of the ASU population, we are able to get money for our whole year," she said.
First to take part in this year's plunge and to kick off the annual event were Justin Cordini, a Special Olympics athlete, Jake Harkey with the Boone Police Department and William Watson with the Appalachian State University Police. "This is Justin (Cordini)'s first time," Poteat said. "He plays basketball and volleyball and more; he's an awesome athlete."
Although it has been about five years since an officer has participated in the jump, this was Harkey's third time taking the plunge.
Harkey, who volunteered to jump this year, has coached Special Olympics for seven years.
"It means more to him than just jumping into a pond," Poteat said.