An ice-cold plunge

The sunshine helped, but it didn’t stop the cold that enveloped the participants in Sunday’s Shiver in the River – a fundraiser for the Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity.
Becky Vargo
Feb 24, 2014


A breeze across the ice kept the 24-degree temperature feeling a little cooler for the 15 participants, who jumped bravely into the Grand River by the Chinook Pier docks.

“It is a rush like no other,” said Brett Heppler before participating in the third annual event. “Your brain is telling you ‘get out, get out, get out,’ but your body does not want to function.”

The Grand Haven resident, dressed as Clark Kent, posed for pictures with his daughters, Jordyn and Sadie before handing  his coat over to wife Katrina.

When a “distraught” person called for help, he bounded into a phone booth and came out as – yes, Superman.

Heppler worked his way down the snow-covered rocks, turned and flew backwards into the water.

He quickly swam back to shore where emergency personnel stood by to help, posed for a quick photo with other super heroes and rushed over to the Grand River Yacht Club to change clothes and get warm.

Most of the participants were in costume or bathing suits.

Sue Thompson and Ellen Trumbo wore black dresses and painted faces.

“It was worse this year,” Thompson said as she cradled a hot cup of coffee in her hands. “Definitely colder. It makes everything look warm.”

Randy Wildey dressed as a pink bunny for the event. He tried selling kisses for $5 to raise money before belly-flopping into the drink.

“It was my first time,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad. I’d definitely do it again.”

Zak Vossen, also dressed as Superman, worked the recognizable Superman pose as he flew into the water.

“I just wanted to do something for Habitat for Humanity,” he said after the event. “Why not be crazy and do something awesome.”

Jumpers paid $20 for the opportunity to plunge into the water in temperatures 15 degrees colder than normal for this time of the year, said Habitat for Humanity Director Beth Tanis.

Some of them collected pledges. Individual and corporate donations were also made she said.

Winners of the Golden Plunger award were: First place, Thompson and Trumbo; second place, Wildey; and third place, Becky Burton as Wonder Woman.

Participation was down from the 50 people in the previous two years, but that was due mainly to the event’s postponement due to weather conditions.

It is normally held during Winterfest.

Tanis said they plan to schedule for Winterfest again next year.

Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity helps build homes for people in need.

Tanis said they do have families approved for homes, but cannot start the build until at least 85 percent of the costs are raised.

Anyone wishing to make a donation or volunteer, can go online to, or call Tanis at 846-1505.



I stood on the dock and watched and I was cold. I could not believe that these people were walking around barefoot on the snow and ice. We sure had a lot of laughs...hadn't laughed that hard in a long time. What a great event!


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