Reasons vary to take plunge in chilly water

There was no doubt Saturday the reason behind Sheriff Jeff Wiley’s decision to take part in the fifth annual Freezin’ for A Reason Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Louisiana.

“She’s going to be a Special Olympian one day, our Special Olympian,” Wiley said Saturday as he held his 4-year-old granddaughter Alex Lanoux.

Alex, who has Down syndrome, smiled and laughed after her grandfather emerged from the icy cold waters of Cabela’s pond, shivering and dripping wet.

“It’s all worth it,” Wiley said.

“This one’s the reason he jumped,” Linda Wiley, the sheriff’s wife said pointing to Alex.

Tiffany Harvey-Gautier, director of internal communications for Special Olympics Louisiana, credited Wiley and his officers with raising more than any other law enforcement agency.

She said the Ascension Sheriff’s Office, led by Maj. Ward Webb, raised more than $14,000 of the estimated $40,000 collected through the event.

Jumpers donned tutus, plastic gator heads, colorful shirts and even bikinis for the fundraiser. Temperatures were in the 30s and the water temperature “is probably in the 40s,” event announcer and Baton Rouge meteorologist Jay Grymes.

Wiley made the plunge with neighboring sheriffs Mike Waguespack, Assumption Parish; and Willy Martin, St. James Parish.

Wiley said his department “really comes together” to support Special Olympics.

In addition to the Polar Plunge, the local officers recently volunteered for the Special Olympics time trials at Dutchtown High School and are planning a torch run through Gonzales for the Special Olympics Summer Games, which are held in May in Hammond.

Special Olympics Louisiana is a statewide organization that “changes lives by promotion understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities.”

Also on hand to support Special Olympics was a three-person team from the newly formed St. Amant High School Gay-Straight Alliance.

GSA club sponsor Nancy Geter said she challenged the club members to raise money for the event “and they really surprised me by raising more than $348 dollars since Monday (Feb. 25).”

“GSA member Julianna Carmouche said the plastic gator head she wore for the jump fell off “but I rescued it.”

“In the end, it’s worth it,” Carmouche said.

More than 90 people from around the metro area took part in the event, Harvey-Gautier said.