PHILIPPI, W.Va. – The Barbour River Rats hosted their annual polar plunge to benefit the Barbour County Emergency Squad and help with the rising cost of services.

Plungers were able to ring in the New Year by taking a plunge in the water to help support the squad, and raise some funds, by jumping into the Tygart River at the boat ramp located near the Philippi Covered Bridge. Participants said the freezing plunge into the river gave them a kick-start into the New Year.

The Barbour County River Rats have raised approximately $2,000 in the past and hope to surpass that amount this year.

“Well, it’s something we do every year, and we hope that everybody who tunes in and watches this on TV or was here today makes a contribution to the Barbour County Emergency Squad if they have not already done so,” said Gerald Fogg, Barbour County circuit clerk.

In prior years, organizers said they have had to break through the ice to allow plungers to take a jump in the river, but that was not the case this year. Participants said that despite there being no ice on the river, the water was still as cold as ice.

“Here in the community especially as spread out as we are in West Virginia in general just having a little bit of extra funds helps us with resupplying equipment, it helps us with being able to put new equipment on trucks when we’re able to do it, and it really, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but every little bit helps,” said Christopher Starkey, EMT basic with Barbour County EMS.

Starkey added that as someone who has looked at the water in the river and checked it, he appreciates the plungers. He also said that he’s glad that it has been the 17th year in a row for the event and that they have not had any accidents, and that everyone who has plunged into the river has come back out. He also expressed happiness seeing the support from the community towards to squad.

“This year, however, a group from a church in Grafton joined us, and I wish I could remember the church’s name, I am ashamed I don’t, but they brought a total of over $600 in donations, so very welcoming and they’re invited back again. It’s over pretty fast, so if you’re going to come to watch, come early, it is wonderful, it is a wonderful feeling. If you are an older fella like me, it really makes you feel like your 16 again. It hurts to begin with, I’m not fibbing, but after all that’s over you feel really good,” said Sam Muncy, self appointed president of the Barbour River Rats.

Barbour County EMS workers said they are always looking for EMT’s, paramedics and drivers and that they also offer CPR, First Aid and Stop the Bleed classes throughout the year.