May 24, 2014

Hit the frigid water for the FEW or pay up

May 24, 2014 Staff Writer Cydney Baron

PRYOR, OK — All across Mayes County, hundreds of people are dashing into freezing cold water and catching it all on film.

The craze is all part of the Cold Water Challenge to raise money for the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors.  

The way it works is simple, once someone is challenged, they have 24 hours to dash into cold water, or cough up $100 to donate to the local organization, the FEW, a veterans support organization.

And Mayes County residents are calling out their friends, family and co-workers by the dozens.

“It all started when my cousin, a Colorado state trooper, challenged four of his friends, and me. He challenged me on a Monday night. I did it Tuesday night and challenged five people,” said Pryor firefighter Ross Armontrout, the one who got the ball rolling in Mayes County.

The challenge raises awareness of the organization while those opting not to dive head first into frigid waters make much-needed donations.

“Guys don't really like to back down from a challenge, especially the firefighters and police that have been challenged. It's just a fun way to raise awareness and some money,” said Armontrout.

For the skeptics, Armontrout assures them the water is still plenty cold.

Pryor Fire Department is being used as a temporary donation drop-off location and due to overwhelming response, the deadline has been pushed further and further back.

“I absolutely did not expect it to take off like this, it's crazy. We've had over 200 people participate so far, as of Monday, but every time I get online I see more and more challenges being issued,” said Armontrout.

Armontrout said he doesn't personally know anyone who has been impacted by the FEW's efforts, but he knows it's a good cause.

“No, I didn't get this started for any particular person, I just know it's a good cause. I actually got a call from a buddy that's a soldier, he's seen all the videos online, and he called to thank me for our support. I told him no, I'm the one who's grateful. All we're doing is getting cold for a few minutes, they're out there being heroes, putting their life on the line,” he said.

Armontrout said the challenge originally began as a fundraiser for Wounded Warrior, but upon the suggestion to help a hometown organization by fellow firefighter Brandon Merritt, the FEW was chosen.

Armontrout describes the foundation as “Make a Wish” for some of the country's bravest.

“The FEW assists in the healing process of the families and veterans of Special Operations Forces recognized for valorous actions and wounds acquired in combat, regardless the era or conflict in which these individuals have served,” according to the FEW's mission statement, adding that they provide customizable therapeutic recreational and sporting events to enhance the mental and physical health of our heroes. “We also strive to assist in the successful reintegration of these warriors with their families and communities.”

“To us it looks like a hunting trip or a fishing trip, a bunch of guys hanging out, but to them it's bridging a gap from soldier to civilian. These people protect our country, the least we can do is donate a little money to the organization making their dreams come true, they've more than earned it” said Armontrout. “Everyone is patriotic when they're challenged, or on Memorial Day. My hope is that this challenge will keep building and raising awareness, keeping these men and women on our minds every day.”


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