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Taking the plunge!

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Posted: Monday, January 13, 2014 2:07 pm | Updated: 2:15 pm, Mon Jan 13, 2014.

There aren’t many people who wake up on a cold January morning and ponder taking a swim. But for a good cause, there are always those who are willing to go the extra mile as they did recently as part of the First Annual Piedmont Mayor’s Plunge held at the new Piedmont Aquatic Center located near the Piedmont Sports Complex.

A good crowd gathered Saturday morning, Jan. 4, to “dive in” as a fundraiser for Venecia’s Foundation, formed by four-time cancer survivor Venecia Butler who has made it her mission over the last few years to raise awareness about cancer and funds to assist others who may have to face what she faced with chemotherapy, radiation and other treatment options.

The one-day event raised more than $3,300. Each “plunging” participant was asked to make a $10 donation and other contributions were given throughout the event. T-shirts and other items were sold as well.

According to Mayor Bill Baker, this was actually a dual celebration to also welcome the new Piedmont Aquatic Center.

“This is brand new,” said Baker. “This was a vision of former Mayor Brian Young. He had council support for this. It is a beautiful, wonderful facility and it we are going to do a lot more promotions, hopefully from free swims and try to get a crowd out here every day during the summer.”

Keith Word, former director, Piedmont Housing Authority, welcomed participants and supporters to the First Piedmont Mayor’s Plunge.

“And I know that there is no doubt by looking at the people that are standing here, we are here to have a good time,” said Word. “This is part of Venecia Butler’s Foundation. You should be happy and proud to be here this morning.”

“I am going to write a check for $50 before I leave today and I challenge every adult here to stop by and see Jane Minton and Beth Reedy and write a check for $50,” said Word. “I will tell you that we have had two donations this morning of $500 each. I will not tell you who did it, but some people are very generous and I am challenging all of you adults to please go by and make a $50 donation. If I can do it, you can do it, and I am on a fixed income.”

“If you have any age on you or heart condition, you need to go slowly in where you won’t put your body in shock,” said Word.

“We want everyone to go in an orderly fashion and we don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Word. “I think you will find that once you get out there and get in the water, you will probably be warmer.”

“We want to promote this thing as a family event, a safe event and I am sure it is going to be a hit and it is going to be something we do every year from now on and it will be always named the mayor’s plunge,” said Word.

“Thank you for coming out today,” said Baker. “I am so glad to see this crowd. My fear was that nobody would show up. We kept talking about this on Facebook and the press was so good to give us publicity and I really appreciate you coming. It is going to be a great day. It is going to be for a good cause, Venecia’s Foundation. As you know, she is a four-time cancer survivor and, all of the money, every penny, goes to her and her program so we are excited about that.”

“We are going to do this every year and we are hoping you will come back,” said Baker. “So are you ready to jump? Venecia and I will go in first, and then we want you to come with us, jump, plunge, whatever, just don’t knock anybody over. Have fun! Hot chocolate and coffee are available for those who jump. Have a good time and thank you so very, very much for coming out again!”

Also attending the event was Brian Peters, meteorologist with TV Channel 33/40 in Birmingham.

“What a turnout!” said Peters. “This is great! They said there would be a few people here, this is great. First of all, I want to say, as a meteorologist, I have got to tip my hat, which I am not wearing, to your mayor Bill. I understand he set the date for this event six months ago. That is a great forecast. You missed the coldest day of 2014 by only three days six months in advance. That is wonderful. I don’t believe in long-range forecasts by the way Bill, so you did a great job!

“By the way, according to my little portable weather station, it is between 37 and 38 degrees,” said Peters. “Those of us with jackets don’t really notice that, but you in bathing suits probably do.”

“It is my distinct pleasure to be here at Piedmont once again,” said Peters. “I have had several opportunities to be in Piedmont with not such great weather events like tornadoes, especially after Palm Sunday of 1994. And it is great to come back and see this wonderful new facility which hasn’t even opened yet!”

Peters reminded participants that the temperature of the water was 10 degrees warmer than the atmosphere outside the pool.

Before “taking the plunge,” Mayor Baker shared how he prepared for his cold water event.

“I love the water but don’t usually go swimming in January, so I just splashed on a little water to try and get acclimated, but we will se how it goes,” said Baker. “At least it is sunny.”

On behalf of event organizers, Word extended appreciation to The Solid Rock Café’ for providing refreshments for participants and Rescue Squad members and other emergency personnel for standing by in the event of an emergency.

“We hope you have a truly, truly wonderful and blessed weekend,” said Word. “Thank you so much for coming out this morning supporting the Mayor’s Plunge. Thank you for supporting Venecia Butler and her cancer foundation. I promise you every dime goes to a good cause. There is no administrative fees like a lot of organizations.”

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