Purple Plungers jump for a ice cold good cause
For the 12th straight year Laura Powers joined other brave souls and took the Purple Plunge into the frigid waters of 11th Crow Wing Lake. The Akeley native and current Maple Grove resident dressed as a scarecrow and was the final jumper of 35 participants. She always jumps last and with this year's costume she wanted to "scare away cancer."
Powers has participated in Audrey's Purple Dream each of the 12 years and jumping into a lake in the middle of February doesn't get any easier.
"It's terrifying," she said prior to taking the plunge. "I'm scared every single year. I wish I was jumping into a bubble bath."
She does it in memory of Audrey Faye Pidde, a lifelong resident of Akeley, who died of cancer in 2005. Powers continues to participate in the Purple Plunge each year because she said Audrey inspired her to be a hospice volunteer. Powers also jumped this year for a co-worker who has cancer. Powers said she keeps coming back to her hometown because it's for a great cause. "It's a great event in a small town and the community really comes together. It's a great thing."
Roger Geimer of Akeley is a veteran of the Purple Plunge. He plunged for three years and now is a volunteer helping others make their way in and quickly out of the water. He speaks from experience and says from jumping in until getting out and into the warming trailer is only about 30 seconds. But it's an awfully cold 30 seconds.
"The whole build up to jumping is the worst," Geimer said. "It's the mindset of going in that gets to you. Then you hot-foot it into the fishhouse."
This year's Purple Plunge, with 35 participants, raised over $7,500.
Audrey's Purple Dream also consists of a fishing contest and ice racing. Event organizer Shannah Geimer reported with donations still coming in Audrey's Purple Dream raised about $23,500.
The event started in 2005 when Audrey was battling cancer and one of her last wishes was to go to Alaska. Audrey had many friends and family members who helped make the original Purple Dream happen. The event raised almost $10,000 to send Audrey to Alaska. Unfortunately, the cancer didn't give Audrey enough time to realize her dream, but the money raised did make a huge impact on the last few weeks of Audrey's life. It enabled her to pay medical bills and other expenses, giving her some peace of mind. The tradition of raising money to help local individuals and families battling cancer continues.
Roger Allen lives on Ham Lake near Akeley and was out Saturday fishing in the contest with family and friends. He was diagnosed with throat cancer two years ago and went through two surgeries and six weeks of chemotherapy. Allen finished radiation treatment in 2015 and appreciates what Audrey's Purple Dream does for families like his. He's happy to participate in the annual fundraiser that brings the community together.
"We have our mailman out here; friends, neighbors," he pointed out during the fishing contest. "It's organized and it's fun. That's what it's all about. This is our neighborhood, so it's nice."
Allen said it's important to him and others involved in the event that the money raised stays here.
"I'm living proof the money stays in the neighborhood."
The fishing contest had record breaking 377 participants. Out of the 309 fish registered, the biggest was a 2 pound-5 ounce walleye caught by John Kramer of Akeley. The 10th largest fish was caught by Justin Schroeder of Nevis. It was a 11.5 oz rock bass and Schroeder won $1,000.
The Paint the Town Purple Contest winners were:
1st Place - Chris Powers and Chelsea Buck
2nd Place - Zappy's CafeRT
3rd Place - T&M Express
The Purple Plunge and record 35 plungers raised $7,524. The child who raised the most money was Sam Hitchcock with $838.10. The adult team who raised the most were: Lorrie Robbins, Karly George, Steve and Alyssa DeWitt with a total of $1,579.65 raised.
The fan favorite who took home the Purple Plunger award was Morgan Monroe.
The Polaris Ranger Winner was John Erickson of Laporte. The $1,000 Button Prize Winner was Justin Beckner of Big Fork. The Mystery Box Winner was Joel Mensch of Walker.