Frank DeVoid takes the plunge with a little push from Stormy, the Carolina Hurricane's mascot.
CLAYTON -- More than two dozen fearless souls braved icy cold temperatures to plunge into a giant pool of water all in the name of a good cause.
The first annual Parking Lot Polar Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics of North Carolina was held on Jan. 26 at Zaxby’s restaurant. The inaugural event was dedicated to the store’s owner, Michael Foy Smith, who died unexpectedly last August.
Local resident Frank DeVoid had presented Smith with the fundraiser concept just weeks before Smith passed away. It was an idea, he said, that was close to Smith’s heart. Born missing a hand, Smith was an advocate for many area charities.
“I did this for Michael,” said DeVoid, a neighbor of Smith’s in the Plantation Pointe subdivision.
“This was something he was excited about. I just admired him so much and I am glad we could bring this to Clayton.”
DeVoid estimates the event brought in over $4,000 for the Special Olympics and participants came as far away as Charlotte. Many area businesses served as sponsors and despite an ice storm the day before, event turnout far exceeded organizers expectations.
“It was just incredible,” said DeVoid. “There are a lot of children that truly benefit from this. People were extremely generous.”
An inflatable above ground pool was filled with over 6,000 gallons of water just hours before the event in the restaurant’s parking lot. Ice from the previous day remained on the ground and temperatures barely rose about freezing.
One of the 30 jumpers was Shawn Bates, assistant principal at Archer Lodge Middle School. Students were encouraged to donate funds and the grade level with the most contributions selected fun attire for Bates to don. He said the school raised $124.87.
“I wore plaid capri pants and a big blue tank top pained with “6th grade Rules” on it,” Bates said. “It took a long time to warm back up. My toes and fingers were so cold but it was for a great cause.”
He also noted the school has a special needs class and many of those students participate in Special Olympics events.
“I’d dive into cold water for those kids anytime,” said Bates.
Also on hand to support the fundraiser were members of the Carolina Hurricanes, including player Chad LaRose, the Storm Squad and mascot Stormy.
“This was the first time an event like this was brought to Johnston County,” said Derrick Thompson, the local Zaxby’s vice president of marketing. “It was such a success that we already are looking to step it up for next year.”