CRAIG BEACH -
Evan Rihel has been an active Relay For Life participant since he was a 3-year-old.
Now as an 18-year-old adult who served as a volunteer firefighter in Braceville and is studying to become an emergency medical technician, Rihel said he does whatever he can to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Saturday it meant jumping into the icy waters of Lake Milton with 250 others as part of the ''Brr! For A Cure'' plunge.
''It's just something we've always done for more than 14 years. When I first started, they pulled me around at the Relay in a wagon when I was 3,'' Rihel said, putting the finishing touches on the Roman gladiator outfit he wore to jump into the 15-by-10-yard section of water where the ice was cut away by Milton township firefighters. The firefighters monitored wave after wave of plungers, who yelled out battle cries before running into the frigid water.
''Now we know we were doing this (Relay) for a reason. It's to prevent cancer in the future,'' said Rihel's mother, Debbie, a mammogram technician who has survived breast cancer.
Nick McAlister, 15, left, and his cousin Haley Smith, 16, both of Warren, splash their way through the cold water of Lake Milton on Saturday afternoon during the Relay for Life ‘‘Brr! For a Cure’’ event at Craig Beach. Both will participate in the Relay For Life.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
She stood by with Team Rihel members and her husband Rob, a prostate cancer survivor. The Braceville couple were both diagnosed with their forms of cancer when they were 44 years old.
Now they head up a 54-member team that raises at least $10,000 a year toward the effort, a lot of it coming from a big March 9 garage sale at First Community Church in Leavittsburg.
Participants grew from 102 in 2012 to the 250 strong this year.
''We raised about $28,000 last year with individuals. This year it was with teams and individuals participating,'' said La Dawn Whitman, income coordinator with the American Cancer Society.
Plungers paid $25 each to head into the watery freeze at the beach.
''Believe me it's colder in the water than when you get out,'' said Phil Fisher, a member of the Kettle Jumpers, who were among the first of more than 50 shifts jumping into the water.
The team has members from Girard, Niles, Cortland and Vienna, including Fisher, who brings in about $20,000 a year to fight cancer just from sales of his kettle corn stand that sets up at several different events each year.
Andy Herman, a Howland School science teacher, who has done about eight different plunges, was trying to convince Josh Metz, a multi-media teacher with an underwater camera, that the task was easy. They both belong to a Howland Schools team captained by Lori Stull, a Howland Middle School librarian.