“I’m a tropical guy. I was born in Asia and raised in Arizona. I’m not looking forward to jumping, but it’s for a good cause,” said Babcock, 46, who wears a different outfit working as a police officer at San Antonio International Airport.
His wife, however, still doesn’t quite get it, he said.
“She thinks I’m very crazy. I tried to get her into it, but she’s at home, sleeping in a warm bed,” he added.
The plunge, one of a dozen similar events occurring around the state this winter, is sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run to raise money for Special Olympic athletes in Texas.
In the last decade, Torch Run has raised over $12 million for programs in Texas that benefit more than 50,000 athletes, according to a press release.
To enter, participants in the Saturday plunge at Splashtown paid $60 per adult and $30 per child. Sponsors also contributed, and about $8,000 was raised.
But of the 40 people who paid in advance, only 19 actualy showed up and got soaked in the 45 degree weather, according to event spokeswoman Anna Twitty.
Once people come, they are not allowed to chicken out, she said.
“People are sometimes scared to go in but we start getting everyone involved to persuade them,” she added.
“I like cold water. I’m gonna swim around and then sit in the corner,” he said.
Representing Special Olympic athletes was Jennifer Blanco, whose 29th birthday was Saturday, along with her longtime coach Shirley Johnson. In addition to wearing a silly birthday cake hat, Blanco had a couple of medals dangling from her neck.
“I’m doing track, softball, basketball, bowling and bocce,” said Blanco, who won the medals last year. Saturday, however, she was determined to remain a spectator.
“It’s so amazing. I’d like to see them jump into the cold water,” she said.
“Before 1968, most people who were intellectually disabled were locked in institutions and forgotten about,” said Johnson.
“Now they are accepted by the general public, getting jobs and doing more than they ever dreamed,” she said.
Finally it was time for each chilled participant to climb the three-story tower and then slide headfirst down a chute to a pool ringed by shivering spectators.
Flash Gordon went second and rose from the pool with triumphant poses before scrambling to dry land.
“It’s cold man, it’s cold, but it was worth it. I’ll do it next year,” said Babcock.
Toward the end, the young man who liked cold water hit the pool and waded to the side while uttering incoherent noises. As it turned out, Alton hadn’t foreseen the high-speed descent.
“I wasn’t bothered by the cold or the water, but that drop. It was so fast,” exclaimed Alton, trying to regain his composure at poolside.
“I feel like I’m going to die. Why am I doing this? I need to calm down. I might have a heart attack,” he added.