SWFD hosts annual Polar Plunge event in honor of injured firefighter

Walton County

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Getting drenched by ice-cold water: that’s how some people in Santa Rosa Beach rang in the new year on Saturday.

The South Walton Fire District hosted their annual Polar Plunge event.

“We couldn’t be happier with the turnout we got,” SWFD public information officer Mackenzie McClintock said. “Kids, people of our senior community, residents, tourists, everybody was out here… We’re so proud.”

However, the event was a little different than in years past.

“[We’re] doing a polar rinse, actually,” attendee Frank Douglas said.

Double red flags were flying on the beach due to surf conditions in the Gulf being too rough for swimmers. There have also been reports of several Man O’ War washing onto the shore.

That didn’t stop the fun on Saturday, though. A firetruck sprayed the crowd with water instead.

There was a costume contest right before the plunge, featuring many recognizable characters. Douglas took home the big prize in his category.

“[I’m] feeling pretty happy, because I beat out the Grinch and Uncle Eddie,” Douglas said.

There were smiles, screams and laughter all around when the first responders drenched the crowd in water. A couple even got engaged at the event.

All of this was in support of Noah Collins, a SWFD firefighter and EMT who was seriously injured in a vehicle accident a few weeks ago.

The proceeds from the event will go to Noah and his family for his recovery.

“Noah’s doing great… We were told this morning that he’s making steps towards working on his physical recovery now, as well as mental,” McClintock said. “He suffered very serious leg injuries, as well as a traumatic brain injury, so every step that he makes every day is a positive one.”

McClintock said the event raised over $8,500 for Noah, and the memories are sure to be long-lasting.

“I cannot believe we pulled it off the way we did, because we weren’t expecting such a large turnout with the Gulf being closed with the double red flags, but we never should’ve doubted this community,” she said. “They’ve been supportive from the first day, and they’re supportive today. We are so happy. It was all for Noah. We couldn’t be prouder.”

If you missed Saturday’s event and you’d still like to donate to show support for Noah, visit the SWFD social media pages to learn more.

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