many may have been fighting to stay dry on Saturday, a handful of folks
in Avon charged bravely into the icy Atlantic in a show of support for
a local non-profit.CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW
Traditionally, chili cook-offs on Hatteras
Island do not feature a dip in the ocean. However, their efforts
certainly added some spice and entertainment to the DECA Dive for the
benefit of Hatteras Island Meals.
Olivia Gaskins and Alexis
Gray, both of whom are seniors at Cape Hatteras Secondary School,
organized the event as part of a community service project that will be
presented at the statewide DECA competition in February.
and Gray developed the unique concept of pairing a “polar plunge” and
the chili cook-off with the hope of garnering greater public appeal and
providing incentive for potential divers.
“We wanted something to warm people up because it’s hard enough just to bring yourself to dive in the ocean,” explained Gray.
ingenuity managed to entice nearly 20 courageous souls to strip down to
bathing suits and shed their inhibitions on the beach during a brief
reprieve from the rain. And, just around noon, the crowd of
onlookers watched in anticipation as they sprinted toward the imminent
To the surprise of many within the audience, the divers
did not immediately resurface and retreat from the frigid waters.
In fact, several participants returned for a second, and even a third,
dip into the ocean.
“It was awesome,” recalled Yuliana Martinez,
a diver and Cape Hatteras Secondary School graduate from Avon. “I
thought it was going to be freezing, but it was not that cold.”
According to Martinez, the wind and strong southeast current were more unnerving than the actual temperature of the water.
current looked really strong and I was nervous about going in,” said
Martinez. “I would actually go swimming, but it was scary because
the water was so rough.”
Ultimately, Martinez disregarded her
reservations with the polar plunge by focusing on her desire to support
the cause and show appreciation for the DECA program she had treasured
as a student.
It was the same sense of community spirit that brought John Greyson of Avon to face the rough waters on Saturday.
have to come out to show support,” stated Greyson. “It’s all
friends and family here. Plus, the ocean wakes you up. It’s
an attitude changer.”
It certainly roused the appetites of all those in attendance.
11 cook-off competitors manned their crock pot stations immediately
following the polar plunge and prepared for the tasting to begin.
contestants provided an array of different chilies to sample, varying
in both style and protein choice, and many offered cheese, sour cream,
and chips to enhance the experience.
In the end, Bonnie Gray,
Alexis’ mother, dished up a classic meat chili that outshined the
others, earning her the title of champion and a handcrafted clay bowl
donated by Kinnakeet Clay.
It remained apparent throughout the
entire event that the families and friends of Gray and Gaskins played a
significant role, not only in supporting the event, but also in
inspiring their decision to focus their project on Hatteras Island
Hatteras Island Meals is a local, non-profit organization
that delivers meals to elderly and ill residents within the community.
Both Gray and Gaskins possess direct ties to the
organization – Gaskins’ grandmother serves as its treasurer and Gray’s
grandmother receives meals now that she has difficulty cooking for
herself – and felt it would be a worthy cause to support during their
campaign against hunger.
The organization’s financial
difficulties, which caused a temporary suspension of services in 2013,
supplied further fodder to support their selection.
Island Meals has struggled in the past few years and had to cut down a
lot on their service,” said Gray. “We thought it would be a good
idea to raise awareness for them and also raise money for them.”
McIntosh, the president of Hatteras Island Meals, was thrilled with the
students’ choice and showed her appreciation by jumping in the Atlantic
alongside the other divers.
Since the setback last year, their
delivery population has remained relatively stable –around the
mid-30s—and McIntosh hopes to maintain this level of service throughout
“This event is great because it will provide an
influx in January when, historically, the giving stream tapers off a
bit,” explained McIntosh. “It has been really nice when people
remember our organization”
Folks within the community have
maintained an active interest in the organization and they continued to
receive regular donations from the local civic associations, churches,
realty companies, and other businesses, but dwindling contributions may
damper their progress towards financial stability.
was grateful that Gray and Gaskins chose to benefit Hatteras Island
Meals and was thoroughly impressed by their performance throughout the
Evan Ferguson, their DECA advisor and marketing
education teacher at Cape Hatteras Secondary School, was also delighted
by her students’ success in planning the event.
employed a hands-off approach to overseeing the project – acting
as a sounding board rather than micromanaging -- and was pleased with
their professionalism, organization skills, and attention to detail.
“They executed everything themselves,” boasted Ferguson. “I am really proud of them.”
chili cook-off and polar-plunge fusion received countless positive
reviews and proved to be a highly successful fundraiser. Over 40
islanders attended the DECA Dive and the event raised $958, enough to
supply nearly 150 meals, to contribute to the long-term success of
Hatteras Island Meals.
“It’s been a lot of work,” mentioned Gaskins, “but it’s a good experience with a positive outcome.”
the end of January, Gray and Gaskins will also contribute any donations
collected through a secondary fundraising event that they established
at the elementary school, the Penny Drive for Hatteras Island Meals.
the Penny Drive, buckets have been placed throughout the school and the
students have been asked to donate their spare change toward the cause.
They chose to incorporate the small-scale component of their
project because they felt that their project last year, an
anti-bullying campaign at the elementary school, positively benefitted
“We didn’t want to completely stop after last year’s project,” said Gaskins. “We wanted to involve them this year, too.”
all aspects of the project are complete, they will compose a 30-page
paper detailing their work and create a presentation that will be
delivered in front of one or two judges at the North Carolina DECA
Career Development Conference in Greensboro.
They feel confident
in their work and hope to proceed to the national competition, which
will be held in Atlanta, Ga., later this year.
their success in the competition, Gray and Gaskins have already
excelled as young professionals and as members of their community.
“I’m just so happy to be helping such a great organization,” summarized Gray.
interested in volunteering their time with Hatteras Island Meals can
contact Natalie McIntosh via e-mail, [email protected], or
To make a donation, mail a check payable to
Hatteras Island Meals, Inc. to P.O. Box 854, Frisco, NC 27920 or access
the Pay Pal account listed on Facebook.