Allyce Andrew
Harold Sigurdson shows his support for the Seahawks during the 4th annual Ballard Elks Pledge or Plunge at the Ballard Beach Club on Jan. 1, 2014.

Plungers take a dip for dough

By Allyce Andrew

On Jan. 1, Dozens gathered on the shore outside of the Ballard Beach Club to witness the fourth annual Ballard Elks Pledge or Plunge. Though the number of the plungers themselves were few compared to others around Seattle, their motives for jumping into the frigid water were far more altruistic than masochistic.

As a recent annual tradition, the Elks decided to use the trendy event for ringing in the New Year as a fundraising effort for children’s hospitals, therapy and scholarships. During the inaugural plunge, the elks raised $3,000, but this year they raked in more than $7,000.

Cindy Olsby, a six-year member of the Elks, said she thought of implementing the plunge into their fundraising efforts about five years ago.

“Anyone can do it,” Olsby stated, “We do have non-members who actually plunge and that’s fine, too (but) most of them are Elks and want to raise money for charity. It is a social thing, but people want to get involved. This is an easy way to do their part for the year.”

One Elk, motivated by his own son’s astronomical medical bills, raised $3,000 alone for a children’s hospital using GOFUNDME and social media promotion through Facebook.

Another Elk, Harold Sigurdson, flanked by his grandchildren and dressed as a Sea Gal, raised money for the Ballard Little League before jumping into the sound.

“They have a lot of good charities where this money goes to,” Sigurdson said. “We’re doing real well.”

Olsby agrees. What started out as a plunge turned into a potluck party, family event to ring in the New Year with the Elks.

“Plunge day has turned into a big deal... It’s a good way to start out the New Year and get everyone together.”
Out of the 2,000 nationwide Elk lodges, the Ballard branch boast the fastest growing in the U.S. and the annual New Years Eve festivities aren’t hurting membership.

The Elks are open to male and female members 21 and up, but Olsby said she was still surprised to see a mix of old and young members at the New Years Eve party the night before the plunge.

“This is where you guys are coming?,” she said she thought. “They were playing Macklemore on the Jukebox and the older people didn’t seem to mind.”

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