A plunge for a cause; Reporter Trey Mewes reflects on his jump at Plunging for Pink over the weekend, pink hat and all

Published 10:36 am Monday, February 2, 2015

Austin Daily Herald reporter Trey Mewes and County Coordinator Craig Oscarson jump into East Side Lake during the Polar Plunge Saturday afternoon. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Austin Daily Herald reporter Trey Mewes and County Coordinator Craig Oscarson jump into East Side Lake during the Polar Plunge Saturday afternoon. — Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Over the past four years, I’ve had the pleasure of serving Mower County as a reporter at the Austin Daily Herald. I’ve covered significant events, important meetings and huge issues for the area.

Yet I’ve rarely had the chance to volunteer for the community. One of the big rules in journalism is a reporter can’t participate or join organizations he or she covers, because any further stories about that group would look biased. In a town where there seems to be a cause a week, that’s a lot of wasted volunteer opportunities on my part.

That’s why I was happy to jump in East Side Lake last Saturday with the Austin All-Stars team as part of the Plunging for Pink event. It was for a good cause and I could satisfy more than a few readers’ desires to see me jump in a lake.

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To be honest, I was a little concerned about jumping in the lake for charity. Not because the water would be cold (it was) or because East Side Lake would be dirty (it was), but because I didn’t know how it would affect my job.

Vision 2020 Director of Vision Creation Laura Helle asked me to be on the team a few weeks back, during a Riverland Community College legislative breakfast. At the time, I had serious doubts about jumping with so many of Austin’s “all-stars,” as it were. After all, I would participate with Helle, Mayor Tom Stiehm, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson, KSMQ President Eric Olson, Riverland President Adenuga Atewologun, Belita Schindler, KAUS personality John Wright and others.

I’ve written stories about and quoted each of these individuals. In full disclosure, Olson and KSMQ paid me to host several election debates last fall. So I felt an ethical debate was necessary.

Fortunately, I decided to go ahead with the jump because it was a good thing to do. My editor and publisher agreed with me, and I was ready to jump, at least mentally.

Of course, I knew there would be fun costumes on display and I needed to bring my A-game to the plunge. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, however. My delightful coworkers at the Herald thought it would be a great idea to give me various pink decorations, including a fun pink zebra stocking cap and a pink moustache. I almost had a pink tutu, but I couldn’t get it lined up in time.

Instead, I chose an old Daily Herald kickball team shirt (we didn’t win a single game that season) and some too-short swimming trunks I got in fifth-grade (yes, I’ve always been that skinny).

Still, I was not prepared for the jump on Saturday. No, seriously — Olson unfortunately was too sick to jump, so KSMQ asked me to wear a giant GoPro camera to record the moment I took the plunge.

The moments leading up to the plunge were, in several ways, worse than the plunge itself. I had never done a polar plunge before, so I was surprised that people jumped into the water so close to shore.

For me, the real challenge was getting around without my glasses. I’m short-sighted, but there was no way I was going to jump in that lake with my glasses on. I can see well enough without them, but it’s tough to judge distances. That’s why I’d like to apologize to everyone I bumped into Saturday — it’s not you, it’s me.

The Austin All-Stars were scheduled to jump in the water first, but we didn’t know what the organizers wanted us to do at first. So when our team was announced, guess who led us to the platform? Hint: it was the guy who couldn’t see very well.

The jump went well enough, I suppose. It was quite cold, but I thought it would be worse than it was. My one real disappointment was the plans I made with Oscarson to push Helle into the lake were all for naught — Helle jumped in before we could get to her.

I take it back — I did face another huge, almost crippling disappointment.

The warming tent wasn’t heated after we jumped.

I huddled for about five minutes in front of a heater near a fire engine before changing. Let me tell you: a mens changing room operates the same way for adults as it did in high school.

There was plenty of expletives and oaths and talk of what the cold does to the human body inside that changing room, and more than once I jokingly asked several of Austin’s more prominent citizens if they wanted me to quote them on the record.

Yet despite the cold, the jump was a great experience. Raising money for cancer research gives people far more warmth than a frozen lake could dispel, after all. I was happy to do my part and I’m glad the area has a fundraiser like this. I plan to write a few stories about the fundraiser and I’ll continue to cover everyone I jumped with, as well as everyone who organized Plunging for Pink, just as tenacious as I did before.

Heck, I might even jump in the lake again.

I’ll have to find a tutu for next time, though.