Banner Elk Police Chief Kevin Hodges

Banner Elk Police Chief Kevin Hodges challenges the High Country to raise $5,000 to support Wildcat Lake. If the funds are raised, he and other officers of the Banner Elk Police Department will take a polar plunge on Dec. 7.

BANNER ELK — Banner Elk Police Chief Kevin Hodges has thrown down the gauntlet. To show his support for Wildcat Lake and what it offers to the community, Hodges has issued a challenge to the High Country: Raise $5,000 for Wildcat Lake and he and the other officers will jump into the icy water at the inaugural Polar Plunge at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7.

“Wildcat Lake is a wonderful resource for locals and visitors alike,” Hodges said. “I will gladly take the leap to support the lake if we can raise the money to help it continue to be a free resource.”

Wildcat Lake provides a powerful pull as 30,000 locals and visitors swim, fish, picnic and play on its shores each year. But these resources aren’t free, which is why Hodges and his department are trying to help. A season’s operating costs are estimated at $45,000. The majority of these expenses provide salaries for lifeguards as well as some facility maintenance, supplies and landscaping. To date, the bulk of the expenses have been shouldered by Grandfather Home for Children.

Mayor Brenda Lyerly agrees. And she thinks the timing is perfect for the Banner Elk Police Department to jump in, and she plans to do her part.

“The Polar Plunge during the time of the ‘Small Town Christmas’ is a perfect time. This is a time for locals to come together for a cause. The much beloved Wildcat Lake needs funds for yearly maintenance and operations,” Lyerly said. “I’m in. I have my check written.”

CHA President and CEO Celeste Dominguez sees a direct relationship between the lake and the children’s home.

“We are committed to serving North Carolina’s children and families. Our role is to provide hope, health, and healing for generations,” Dominguez said. “Ensuring the safety of all children – preventing and treating trauma — is a top priority at Grandfather Home. Wildcat Lake is our way of providing something to the community that helps support this commitment to children, but the more the community supports the expenses of the lake, the more money can be saved to help children.”

The recreational hotspot has a long history in the community. Wildcat Lake was built in 1933 during the height of the Depression to provide a permanent water supply for the Tufts institutions of Lees-McRae College, Grace Hospital and Grandfather Home for Children. It also served as an emergency water supply for the fire department.

Want to see the Banner Elk Police Department get wet at the Polar Plunge? Make a donation today by clicking to www.childrenshopealliance.org/donate and select “Friends of Wildcat Lake” in the drop-down menu, then show up on Saturday to cheer them on!

Grandfather Home for Children (a part of Children’s Hope Alliance) works to end the cycle of child abuse by fulfilling its mission to provide hope, health, and healing for generations through residential programs that provide children with safe homes and help to heal their hurt. Tours of Grandfather Home are available. For more information, click to www.childrenshopealliance.org.

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