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Polar Plunge raises $22,000 for Highland Lakes Crisis Network

Polar Plunge into Lake Marble Falls

Polar Plunge participants helped raise more than $22,000 for the Highland Lakes Crisis Network on Friday, Feb. 19. Staff photo by David Bean

Marble Falls business owner Todd Fox set a $10,000 mark for donations to the Highland Lakes Crisis Network for him to participate in the Polar Plunge and jump into Lake Marble Falls.

He reflected on that decision a bit after donors reached the goal.

“I wish they would have said $15,000,” he said with a laugh.

Even then, Fox would have taken the plunge Friday, Feb. 19, at Lakeside Park as the final tally was more than $22,000 and over 30 jumpers.

Kurt Cotter conceived the spontaneous cold-water plunge, at first for fun.

“The idea is me being silly,” Cotter said. “I looked at the weather and put something up as a joke.” 

He basically dared anybody to join him with the line: “I’m in if you’re in.”

That prompted another friend, Ashley Crouse, to offer to make a donation to a charity if Cotter took the plunge. One of his friends, Corey Skahill agreed to jump as well, for charity of course.

Cotter reached out to Crisis Network Executive Director Kevin Naumann with the idea. The network had been working to support people across the Highland Lakes soon after the winter storm slammed the area. The organization and volunteers delivered countless meals and more. 

Naumann was on board immediately, though it’s unclear if he was standing on the bank with the others on the afternoon of the jump.

“I love it,” Naumann said. 

Along with Cotter and Skahill, Fox and Marble Falls High School head football coach Brian Herman pledged to jump. Herman has been volunteering with the Crisis Network for several months and saw his participation in the Polar Plunge as another way to help. 

And the rest is frozen history.

The only change was the date, which was initially slated for Monday, Feb. 15. 

“The freeze was so much worse than anyone anticipated,” Cotter said regarding the change of date.

As for whether the water or air was colder, it’s a matter of opinion.

“I’m thinking it’s going to be warmer in the water,” Herman said before the leap. “I may want to stay in.”

After jumping in, Herman swam a few strokes farther than the others and was among the last to exit.

Cotter absolutely thought it was colder in the water.

“The lake for sure,” he said after exiting in 30 seconds. 

As for Fox’s involvement, he credited his daughters, Maegan Kuykendall and Farren Fox, who saw Cotter’s post inviting others to join him. The two relayed the information to their father and let Cotter know of their plan.

“This is the reason I don’t have Facebook because I will speak without thinking and that’s not good for the whole world,” Todd Fox said. “When I decided to do it, it was last week. It’s a long ways out and you don’t think anything about it.”  

Some people donated specifically to make sure Fox took the leap and were adamant that Fox was told who and why they were donating. One was businessman Garrett Gray, who asked at one point how much more the fundraiser needed to reach $10,000. Gray donated the difference and made one request.

“Just make sure he knows who’s sending him,” Cotter said. 

Fox confirmed he knew that Gray donated what was needed to force him to dive, and he was a man of his word. Fortunately, they all have big enough hearts to keep them warm as they took a nutty leap into Lake Marble Falls on the second day the area was barely above freezing following the winter storm.

“At 58 years old, everybody has had the pleasure of watching me do this,” Fox said of his craziness.

If you or someone you know needs assistance following the winter storm, check the Highland Lakes Crisis Network’s website for information or to support the organization.