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Participants prepare to take the plunge in Birch Lake

As Back to Hack events approach this weekend in Hackensack, a friendly competition is brewing.

To Plunge or Not to Plunge at noon Saturday, Jan. 26, is a rivalry that has developed between two local pastors.

When Pastor Michael Small announced to his congregation at Union United Church of Christ that he planned to participate in the PAMDA Penguin Plunge, jumping into icy water of Birch Lake, he was surprised at their reaction. They decided it wasn’t a good idea for him to jump into frigid lake water, so it was agreed that if they raised $1,000 or more, he would agree not to jump.

“It’s for a good cause,” Small said.

The monies raised through pledges will benefit the local health clinic, operated by Essentia Health.

Small didn’t think it was likely that the pledges for him not to jump would reach the $1,000 mark.

Pastor Judy Gustaffson, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, is committed to take the plunge. She is struggling to get the pledges as she admits, “I’m just not very good at raising money.”

This is her first exposure to activities of the annual celebration as she is the “new kid on the block.” She looks forward to participating in the PAMDA sponsored event.

“It is wonderful that the clinic will benefit as our community benefits from having the clinic in our midst,” she said.

Many local businesses are sponsoring teams, including North Country Tire, Mark’s Market, Swanson’s, Hackensack Hardware and First National Bank.

Mary Parrish, a member of the team from Mark’s Market, is taking her second plunge. The “70-something” participant took part in the 2012 event, appearing at the water’s edge with a walker.

“I just wanted to show that you’re never too old,” she said with a laugh.

The funds are raised from the entry fee of $30 per jumper, plus any pledges raised over that amount. Dawn Pederson, chairman of PAMDA (Pines Area Medical Development Association), said, “The funds are vital to the operation of the clinic. New clinics always struggle in the first few years. This is a fun way to help and support the community celebration at the same time.”

Other lake events taking place over the weekend include a radar run and ice boat racing.

Bleachers will be available for spectators to get a good view of the activities and cheer for their favorite jumper. PAMDA will sponsor a food booth where hot dogs and brats will be available, and the youth of Union UCC church will provide hot coffee and cocoa for donations.

Registrations for individuals and teams will begin at noon at a lakeside tent and the Penguin Plunge begins at 1 p.m. Warming/changing tents will be provided separately for both men and women. The Cass County Diving Team will be in the water to assist.

Registration forms/pledge cards are available at local businesses. Many other events are scheduled throughout the community over the entire weekend.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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