It never ceases to amaze me how small towns can pull together in times of need. Last week, while making several treks to interviews along the Missouri River, I passed through the town of Tarkio in Atchison County, Missouri – a prime example.
One of the town's youngest residents, 5-month-old Landon Shaw, is battling a rare form of cancer. Members of the Tarkio community are rallying to support him – by plunging into frigid water, and making donations in his name. In the past few weeks, Landon's story has been heard not only in Atchison County, but across Missouri, Iowa, and the entire U.S.
The "Plunge for Landon" challenge involves recording video of a participant plunging into freezing water, sometimes in creative ways, before uploading the video to Facebook, and challenging three others to participate within 24 hours with the intent of donating a certain amount per person to Landon and his family. If no one has challenged you, you are still encouraged to take the plunge and challenge your friends and family.
This weekend, a getaway to one of my favorite nearby destinations, Nodaway County's Mozingo Lake, presented the perfect opportunity. So, a couple friends and I took the plunge into cool Mozingo waters on a windy Saturday morning. Because of the wind, the video is only what I would consider Facebook quality, so I won't be posting it here.
Support from across the globe
The plunge got its start as a cold water challenge between friends, notes one of the original participants, Joshua Wright. Someone suggested the challenge should be used as a fundraiser, and Landon was the first person to come to mind, notes Wright, a friend of the Shaw family.
"We decided we'd make a Facebook page for Landon, and the rest is history. We had no idea it would turn into something like this," Wright says. "I just thought I'd put 30 plunges on the page, I never thought there would be 41,000 videos in two weeks."
The Plunge for Landon Facebook group, which was started on March 30, now has over 43,000 members. So far, donations total over $117,000, and people are participating in all 50 states and 14 countries, as far away as Australia, Italy, Japan, and France.
"Seeing complete strangers do it for someone they don't know really restores your faith in humanity," Wright says. "Being from Tarkio, the community here has always been like that. We've always been a tight-knit group."
Even when the waters warm up, the community has more in store to show support for Landon. Saturday, July 12, the Heartland Recreation Center in Tarkio is hosting a poker run on the third day of its Walnut Stock music festival to help raise money in support of Landon and his family. Wright, who is director of the center, hopes to break the Guinness World Record of 1,571 people participating in a poker run.
To learn more about the cause or show your support, visit the Plunge for Landon Facebook page. Checks can be written to Landon Shaw and mailed to the Flower Mill at 606 Main Street, Tarkio, Missouri, 64491. Donations can be made via PayPal to [email protected].