Live Oak —
While it may not qualify them for members of the Polar Bear Club, on Friday, Jan. 10, Warden Chris Landrum and four other officers from Suwannee Correctional Institution made good on their promise to jump in the prison pond, if the staff beat rival Columbia Correctional Institution in a blood drive challenge through LifeSouth Community Blood Centers.
In November, it was Warden Monroe Barnes at Columbia CI and his senior staff who’d taken the dunking for a good cause, when the staff came through with 139 donated units of blood. He’d then sent a copy of the video of the chilly plunge to Landrum, just to remind him who won.
Not to be out-done, Landrum, along with Assistant Warden Freddie Mock, Col. Richard Lukens, Maj. Ronny Morgan and Maj. Robbie Geiger, threw down the same challenge at Suwannee CI to top 139, and they’d take the plunge. The staff came through with 147 units collected over three days in December.
So, on Friday, Jan. 10, a cloudy day with the temperatures in the low 70s, and the water a chilly 56 – 16 degrees colder than the nearby Ichetucknee – more than 120 members of the prison staff gathered on the shore of the pond and watched their leaders pay up. They did so in true Suwannee River style, with a rope swing rigged up over the pond.
“I can’t stand the Ichetucknee, it’s too cold for me,” said Lukens before grabbing the rope.
Landrum acknowledged the rivalry with Columbia CI and said the community was the real winner, with both facilities seeing big jumps in the number of blood donors. And while he wasn’t looking forward to the dip, he did see one bright side – the outside temperature was above freezing, an improvement from earlier in the week.
“Oh, my goodness that would have been rough,” Landrum said.
So after climbing aboard a flat-bed, behind a sign that read, “Welcome to the Real Pond Jump,” they made good on their promise – Lukens first, followed by Landrum, Geiger, Mock and Morgan, each to the cheers and laughter of spectators.
“It’s way warmer out here than in there,” Mock said after climbing out.
“It was take-your-breath-away-cold,” said Landrum, wearing the smile of a challenge winner.