Pam Kemper was spending quality holiday time with her friends in Mineral, Va., a few years ago when someone jokingly suggested, “Let’s jump in the lake tomorrow for New Year’s Day!”
Another friend replied with, “You’d have to pay me to jump in.” After going back and forth for a while, Pam chimed in with, “If you raise $500, I’ll jump in and donate the money to charity.” By the time Pam awoke the next morning, not only was it cold enough to have a thin layer of ice on the lake, but people were lined up ready to donate for an icy plunge into Lake Anna.
At first, Pam couldn’t believe they were actually serious. But by the end of the day, $500 dollars was raised and Pam, along with three others, jumped into the freezing lake. Thus, the annual polar plunge tradition began.
With each passing year, Pam and her friends advertised the event more and more. Word began to spread around the community, and before she knew it, the polar plunge became a date on the calendar that people genuinely looked forward to as the perfect way to kick off the New Year.
This past January marked the seventh straight year that Pam’s community held the polar plunge. They have seen their New Year’s Day event grow in size in every aspect. In 2016, they had as many as 21 polar jumpers ranging between 12 and 75 years old. After the event was completed, they had managed to raise a record amount of $12,050.
Since the very first year, money from the event has always been given to various charities. However, they began donating to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network a few years ago for a very personal reason: Anne Graves, one of the original participants was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although she didn’t participate once she was diagnosed, Anne was an active supporter from the sidelines.
Unfortunately, Anne lost her battle with pancreatic cancer a year after she was diagnosed. In her honor, Anne’s husband, Carl, her granddaughter, Chloe, and son-in-law, Vince, still continue to Wage Hope by participating in the polar plunge each year. Her daughter, Kelly, has also attended every year (she even hosted it one year) and assists Pam with recruiting new polar jumpers and raising funds. For Anne’s family, the polar plunge is a special opportunity to honor the loving and vibrant wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and friend while at the same time raising funds and awareness for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.
Before participants plunge into the icy waters, Pam kicks off the event by informing everyone about the amount raised and how their donations are making a difference. She often highlights the work of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the importance of clinical trials and other services such as Know Your TumorSM. Pam has found that with each polar plunge, she sees more new faces that have been touched in some way by cancer. Yet everyone remains determined to Wage Hope.
While discussing the event in a recent interview, Pam said, “There is always a personal story that you can make a connection with and after every event, people leave so thankful for what we are doing.”
It’s a warm summer currently in Mineral, so Pam is already looking forward to next year’s polar plunge!
Would you like to Wage Hope your way and raise funds for the fight against pancreatic cancer by hosting an event or honoring a loved one? Learn more about DIY fundraising – anything goes! – at www.pancan.org/diy and get started today!