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The Pink Cedar River
Nothing unites a town like a good cause. In these days of seemingly tense division it’s refreshing to see folks rally behind Paint the Town Pink.
The last time the community gelled like this was probably when the Red Cedar River invaded Main Street on all fronts. Sandbagging, while at times successful and others futile but always exhausting, is actually a great way to get to know your neighbor. Disaster can of course divide us but sometimes to defeat adversity we must unite. Opinions differ on a lot of issues but a couple of things the majority of A-towners agree on: Cancer and floods suck and we will do what it takes to beat them both back. That’s why we shovel sand into burlap bags and that’s why we paint the town pink.
Cancer is so pervasive everyone knows someone affected by the disease in their immediate or extended family, including me. My favorite sister-in-law Patty is a survivor but we lost our beloved Aunt Virginia three years ago. My mother had a brush this year that scared the bejesis out of all of us.
I think a lot of credit should be given to the Austin Bruins for their tremendous contribution to the cause. Paint the Rink Pink has been a mammoth fundraising success story as well as an inspirational spring board for other “Pink” events.
The most recent weapon unleashed in the war on breast cancer was the first annual Polar Bear Plunge at East Side Lake. Thank goodness it wasn’t extremely cold outside this year. It was still February in Minnesota and the 20 mph wind gusts were sheering enough to thoroughly numb any exposed skin.
I dressed warm from head to toe and rode my studded tire mountain bike down to the lake and onto the ice to watch the action unfold.
Brave men and women dressed in pink tights, shorts, sunglasses and other flamboyant, colorful costumes that landed someplace on the fashion scale between a Lady Gaga video and a drag queen convention. Participants gathered quickly on the ice some 40 feet from shore when their team name was called.
Music was blasting in the background all the while and a tip of the pink hat to the DJ for selecting an appropriate set of songs for the occasion including “Cold as ice,” and “Splish splash I was taking a bath.”
Some teams held hands and advanced their way slowly down the slippery runway while other folks approached solo. Firemen bobbing in puffy coldwater rescue suits awaited the leapers in the frigid lake as they lined up to take the plunge. The wind was so cold on their bare skin it hastened many and a few slipped on the treacherous wet ice as they approached. Once they jumped the race was on to shimmy up the bank and into a waiting hot tub for instant relief from the freezing water.
A friend and classmate of mine, Barb Hovey Nelson, has become the honorary local spokesperson for the cause as she’s been battling cancer for the second time in her life, this after it had already taken her husband only three years ago. Barb has demonstrated uncommon grace and undoubtedly inspired many to participate.
Despite having lived high and dry out of the flood plain all my life, countless times I’ve stood in dirty, rushing river water and loaded hundreds of sandbags for every flood since 1978. That’s just what you do when your neighbor’s house is being threatened.
And when your neighbor or classmate is facing an enormous challenge from a dreadful disease like cancer, I guess you just jump yourself into a frozen lake sportin’ a pink tutu if that’s what it takes to help.
Thanks for plunging along Austin…
Traffic Tip: Click on the links below to view video of teams Yoga Studio of Austin and B&J Bar taking the plunge.
B & J Bar
Yoga Studio of Austin
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