FLORENCE — So maybe the temperatures were polar bear suitable for Tuesday's "Plunge into the New Year," but the goal was reached all the same, according to organizers of the event.

Josh Miles led the effort, a plunge into a chilly Tennessee River on New Year's Day at McFarland Park. About 200 other plungers joined him.

A crowd of several hundred gathered to watch the 1 p.m. ringing in of 2019.

The event, in its third year, was relocated to the boat ramp near River Bottom Restaurant due to standing floodwaters in the McFarland beach area.

Miles, a Lauderdale County resident, began the event along with two friends to pay homage to a fellow Marine who died of suicide.

On Tuesday, just prior to the plunge, he gave an impassioned plea for those considering "checking out of this life" to swallow their pride, look around and see that there are people who love them and want to help.

Likewise, he urged the crowd to be mindful that people all around them are struggling, some just to keep living life.

Several of the day's plungers were in matching shirts bearing the message of being suicide aware.

Lauderdale County resident Jim Hartshell's shirt said simply, "Look around ... you are loved."

"For me, today was about welcoming a bright new year and resounding that message that suicide is never the answer," Hartshell said.


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