Saturday was the day of the plunge — in both the climate and the cause.
After a week of unseasonably warm weather, the temperatures dropped into the 40s, just in time for the Plunge for the Colors event at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park.
The fundraiser for Southeastern Medical Oncology Center and the Arts Council of Wayne County was also an opportunity to acknowledge all those battling different forms of cancer.
The event was originally supposed to have been held in October, as it had been the previous year when it went by the name “Pink Plunge” and centered around breast cancer awareness.
Hurricane Florence changed all that, said Allison Taylor, a board member with the Arts Council.
“This is my project,” she said. “We decided to do it, instead of making it only a breast cancer event, (and) we talked with the folks from SMOC.”
The decision was made to represent all cancers. Hence, the reference to the different colors.
Taylor’s son, Nathan, reflected that in his choice of ensemble — featuring a bow tie and a multi-hued tutu.
“I got the colors for each cancer and running pants because, why not?” he said as he reached for his coat. “Later, I’ll be getting my feather boa.
“I don’t know what I look like now.”
“You’re adorable,” chimed in Donna Amos, a member of the Arts Council board.
Nathan, a freshman at Wayne Country Day School, had attended the inaugural event but didn’t jump in the lake then because he was busy recording it on video.
He had his own personal reasons for participating this year.
“A person very dear to me got breast cancer a couple years back,” he said. “That inspired me to get more involved.”
Anna Overcash, on the SMOC staff, was among those who left a message on the chalkboard in honor of a loved one diagnosed with cancer.
For her, it was her father, James, who has battled lung cancer.
Teresa Hoyt, business manager at SMOC, was not ashamed to admit she didn’t plan to jump into the chilly lake.
“I’m volunteering,” she said with a smile.
Fortunately, she had a ringer ready to go, in the form of her 12-year-old daughter, Tristain Hoyt.
She had no prior experience with the activity, she said, but was willing “because everybody else is,” Tristain said. “I thought it would be cool.”
No pun intended.
Teresa was proud of SMOC for the way it raises money to help patients pay their bills and have access to care during cancer treatment.
“We have raised a lot of money for cancer,” she said. “We’re very blessed by the support of the community.”
Amos, who is also an art teacher at Spring Creek Elementary School, reconnected with a former student, Cameron Casey, now a fourth-grader at LaGrange Elementary School.
His mom, Stacey Casey, works at SMOC, he said.
“I came out with my mother,” he said. “This is something they do to help their patients that have cancer. I came out here like I did last year to sponsor and help with that.”
In addition to the tepid dip into the water at noon, the event included face painting and activities for children, a food truck and an invitation to create chemo cards for patients at SMOC receiving treatment.
Local artist Guy Simmons said he was invited to attend and share his time and talents.
“This is a creative event,” he said. “I’m a portrait artist and I evolved into this — caricature art is like a mixture of art and comics. You’ve got to sit face-to-face and talk with each other.”
Born and raised in Goldsboro, he said he appreciates any opportunity to give back to his city and county. At the same time, rubbing his hands together for warmth, he admitted it was a novel approach to his typical routine.
“I’m taking a plunge of sorts myself,” he said with a laugh.
Organizer Allison Taylor said she is interested in doing even more interactive art and hopes to have Plunge for the Colors grow “bigger and bigger” and become an annual staple.
“Everybody here has a different reason why they’re here,” she said. “This is a nice way to realize that we’re all here for the same reason.”