Big Chill

Supporters ‘brrrrring’ on the message with river jump

Friday, Feb. 20, was cold, with temperatures dropping to 38 degrees.

Nice day for a swim?

For 50-plus individuals gathered on the banks of the Little River at Peery’s Mill, taking the plunge into the cold water was all to “raise awareness and eyebrows” for adoption.

Harmony Adoptions sponsored the second annual Chillin’ for Children event at Perry’s Mill just off East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Walland.

“It was wonderful,” said Harmony Adoptions community development director Jim Norwood. “We had a huge crowd of 100 or more people and actually had 50 adoption case workers and advocates who jumped in the water. It was a perfect day,”

At least the wind-chill factor cooperated. “The water temperature was 38 degrees and outside temperature was 38 degrees. They both matched. It was a little breezy and colder than last year. When you hit water, you were trying to get out so fast.”

Personnel from the Blount County Rescue Squad offered assistance and had divers in case someone couldn’t make it back. There were six partner agency that work with adoptive agencies across the state and lots of staff from those agencies took the cold jump, Norwood said.

“The CEOs or presidents of each agency actually jumped in all at one time,” said Norwood. “Presidents, vice presidents and CEOs from Harmony, Youth Village, DCS, Helen Ross McNabb and Holston Homes for Children, Omni Visions all ran and jumped in.”

After the heads of the organizations jumped, staff from those agencies jumped in the water behind them. Many wore costumes that varied from superheroes to Dr. Seuss characters. “We had a guy with a pole vault, and he had cut off shorts from the 70s and a cut off shirt. He pole vaulted into the water,” Norwood said.

Another swimmer had a “rocket pack” on his back that had smoke bombs. “He took off running and jumped in. The event probably lasted an hour,” said Norwood. “That water, I can not describe it.”

Norwood was happy with the turnout compared to the first event in 2008. “It has gotten so big this year. Next year we’re probably going to have to do something,” he said. “We may have to change venues.”

Norwood said Harmony did the inaugural event in 2008 and this year invited all the other partner agencies in the East Tennessee area that work with adoptive children to do it as an area event and to have fun. “It wasn’t a fundraiser. It was about spreading the message, the good news about adoption and to let the professionals who work in the adoptive field come together and have fun,” he said.

Norwood said Harmony does private adoptions but they also recruit families across Tennessee to adopt children in state custody. “There are currently 400 children in state custody awaiting adoption, and we’re working to get word out about all those kids who are trying to find a ‘forever family,’ ” he said. “These kids, in general, are from 8 to 17 years old and are waiting for forever homes. That’s what Chillin’ for Children is about - raising awareness about the need for a forever homes for these children. It’s about sharing life, love and joy through adoption.”

Norwood said Chillin’ for Children and Harmony Adoptions would like to thank Starbucks for bringing out hot chocolate and coffee. “We want to thank them for being so kind to us,” he said.

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