80 People Take a Dip in Lake Michigan to Support Local Veterans

A tradition that’s been going on for twenty years returned to Charlevoix on Thursday for the annual Douglas Meredith McNabb Thanksgiving Veterans Memorial Swim.

The Thanksgiving tradition of taking a plunge into Lake Michigan was started by the brother of Doug McNabb, a Vietnam squad leader who was killed during the war. The brother, John McNabb was having a little friendly competition with his friend 20 years ago which got the whole event started, remembering his lost brother. “I was here for the first one when John and his buddy bet $100 that they wouldn’t go swimming,” said Ed Rogalla, one of the organizers. “John went swimming and his buddy didn’t go and that’s how it started.”

Since the tradition began, the event organized by the Elks Lodge in Charlevoix has raised over $80,000 for veterans in the area. “The donations are primarily for veterans of the area,” said Rogalla. “Anything from gas cards, furniture, health care, rides, whatever.”Thanksgiving Day 2

“That’s really cool,” said J.T. Maroney, a swimmer that flew from Texas to take part. “I was glad to make a donation to them and be apart of it absolutely,”

The water was a chilly 48 degrees but that didn’t stop 80 people from taking the dip and then try their own methods to get warm. “Probably a hot toddy and some dry clothes,” laughed Moroney.

Over the years the event has grown in popularity with people showing up to swim or just watch the spectacle. “It’s been supported well by the community as you can see today,” said Rogalla. “The weather is a little testy. This is one of the colder ones we have and the waves are a little larger than normal but you heard them all screaming with joy.”

The donations received on Thursday will also go towards the Charlevoix Community Christmas Project, an organization that helps feed people in need during Christmas.