By Grace Moore
Hulett Police Chief Bill Motley and the Hulett Police Department, in conjunction with Keyhole State Park Superintendent Terry Lee and the park staff, hosted the first Jackalope Jump in Crook County at the Keyhole marina Saturday afternoon, which was opened for the participants by the owners. This fundraising event raised $3600 to benefit the Special Olympics.
Motley, having initiated and, to a great degree, organized the event, explained why.
“When I was starting my law enforcement career over 20 years ago, we did things with the Special Olympics and so it’s kind of been near and dear to my heart. Last year we had our first Torch Run and this is the first Jackalope Jump,” he said.
Motley spoke of a young local athlete, James Boswell, who recently competed at the Special Olympic World Games and returned home with a gold medal. “You would think that in small towns, that probably wouldn’t happen, but it does and it’s pretty awesome so this is what we can do to help,” he said.
There were around 19 participants willing to plunge into the frigid 42ᵒ water off the dock, several of whom were youngsters.
Six-year-old Nolan Gaskin was waiting excitedly for the sport to begin and spoke to his reason for being there, saying, “Because I watched it on ‘Doctor Pull’ and I wanted to try it because it looked fun.” Dad Justin explained that the two of them had previously discussed Nolan’s desire to participate in a cold water plunge and, “We found one that was close enough to home and supported local kids and Special Olympics so that’s what we went with and why we’re here today.”
Nolan’s uniform for the dive was a life jacket and his swimming suit; he dove with his dad, Justin, who took the plunge in a purple dinosaur costume, after which Nolan warmed up in a sleeping bag and reheated his insides with hot Gatorade®. Nolan opined after he was back on dry land and warming up that he would not be doing this particular event again next year.
Director of Pine Haven Ambulance Service Dusty Downey and EMT Barb Hardy were on hand with the community’s ambulance as a precautionary measure. Downey, who, with Motley, was the first to jump, stated that his participation was on behalf of the Pine Haven Ambulance Service.
He noted that many of the Nordic civilizations have jumped into cold waters for millennia and believe the effort to be beneficial to the body’s wellbeing.
Twelve-year-old Aspen Henry and her younger brother of Gillette both jumped with friends. Aspen and her friend Alydee Lake explored the dock beforehand.
“It’s for Special Olympics and I thought, why not raise a little money just for them,” she said.
This was her first cold water dive. She later mentioned that, when she was swimming out of the water, she, “couldn’t feel my toes anymore.” She said she might consider jumping again if the event is repeated in the future.
Aspen’s younger brother, Brecken, jumped and survived the swim with relative calm, saying only, “It was way colder than I thought it was going to be.” He was the only youngster that adamantly stated his plan to participate again next year.
Candy Phillips, who works at Moorcroft K-8, was warming in the sun after walking out of the water, “It was really, really cold! It took my breath and the swim back to the shore, I was out of breath,” Phillips said.
Amy Boswell, James’ mom, jumped this year for her son. Her first thought when she hit the water? “Oh crap!” she laughed.