March 6, 2019

Well, by now we know that Punxsatawney Phil is not the most reliable weatherman, er, …weather rodent. His prediction for the end of winter was kind of a bust in hindsight. While he did not see his shadow on the morning of February 2 in Pennsylvania, the sun was bright and the weather was relatively mild here in Union. It is safe to say that, had Phil been in Union for the Splash! in his honor, his forecast might have been more spot on.

And, even though the area had just experienced several days of temperatures that were well below freezing, a merry and intrepid band of 29 Splashers made their way into the West Pond of the new Veterans Memorial Park in east Union.

The Union Fire Protection District had a few firefighters on hand to use picks and axes to break through the inches-thick ice that covered the pond. Two firemen donned special neoprene wetsuits, created a large ice-free pool near the shore, and stayed in the water for the duration of the event as a safety precaution. Several other area EMS personnel and even a few high school aged lifeguards were on hand in case of an incident.

Wave after wave of Splashers entered the water, did a few obligatory backstrokes, and (even more quickly!) scurried back out of the 30-degree slush to have a few donuts and a piping hot cup of cocoa. Happily, there was no need for the emergency folks at all. This was especially appreciated by the lifeguards, who, absent neoprene suits, had only swimsuits and t-shirts for protection.

The whole idea was to raise funds for the Union R-XI Foundation through each participant’s efforts to gather donations from friends, family, and acquaintances. Splash! organizers and Foundation board members, Nick Hoeing and Tracy Wall, modeled the event after the well-known Polar Plunges that are ubiquitous this time of year. They used the normally race-centered registration and donation site,, as the online headquarters for the event. In a charitably collaborative twist, the $2,600 that participants raised was split with four other local non-profits: Franklin County CASA, Hope Ranch of Missouri, Union Rotary Club, and Wildcat Foodpacks Program. Fifty percent went to the R-XI Foundation and the other half was spread between the four other groups as per each donor’s request.

The participants, from ages 10 to mid seventies, stoically (for the most part) braved the ice-cold water. While most made a conventional and gradual entry by walking down the short beach into the pond, a few daring souls actually walked (or skidded, actually) out onto the ice and jumped into the deepest area that had been broken open.

Businesses and friends of the Foundation who sponsored and helped support the event were: Jane Ridder, Great 8 Cinema, Carol Stieffermann of American Family Insurance, Red White and Brew Coffee Co., United Bank of Union, Tricia A. Seely of Edward Jones, Trophies T’s and More, and Elmer’s Tavern. Please help us thank them for their support with your patronage. A huge thank you also goes to the City of Union and all the local emergency services agencies and personnel who were on hand to help.

The first annual Groundhog Splash! is one for the books, but we hope you’ll help us celebrate next year as the R-XI Foundation makes this a perennial favorite! To learn more as we nail down the details, please subscribe to our email newsletter list for the latest in Foundation news and happenings.

First Annual Groundhog SPLASH! was COOLEST Foundation Event Ever!