Of all the reckless maniacs who sank 35 bucks and their hardy altogethers into the Evergreen Lake Plunge on New Year’s Day, none caused a bigger splash — both literally and figuratively — than Princess Kristina Halstead.
True, we colonials generally don’t have much use for viscounts, crown princes, queen mums and the like, but the festive mob on hand for Evergreen’s second-ever Frigid Follies on Jan. 1 took their honorary liege to heart with royal enthusiasm.
“Kristina really is a princess,” smiled Maren Schreiber, head of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District’s special-needs program and longtime counselor to the Crown. “She’s always smiling, always cheerful. She’s so positive that you have to smile whenever she’s around.”
That’s called leading by example, and that’s exactly why Kristina and her devoted retinue turned out for the Plunge.
“We watched everybody jump last year, and we’ve been talking about it ever since,” explained Kristina’s dad, Bob, who, though untitled, is content to bask in his daughter’s reflected glory. “She said, ‘We can do that, can’t we?’ I said, ‘Of course we can.’ We actually did a polar plunge in Alaska from a cruise ship. I guess that was a practice run.”
Still, why would Princess Kristina subject her noble personage to a 33-degree insult from Evergreen Lake?
“Because it’s a great cause,” she said, reclined in a small but stately carriage and wearing her trademark contagious smile. “I want to help.”
And help she did, and helped herself in the process. Organized by Drive Smart Evergreen-Conifer with abundant support from Evergreen Fire/Rescue, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and title-sponsor Wealth Design Foundation, the Evergreen Lake Plunge bestows much-needed funding on Maren’s much-needed special needs programs. As it happens, Kristina has been a special-needs patroness since she was just a little princess of 5.
“The special-needs program gives her the opportunity to do a lot of really, really cool things,” said Kristina’s big brother and EHS senior, Riley. “She goes skiing, she goes bowling, she’s done rope courses — she’ll try anything.”
Anything, that is, except hurling herself into Evergreen Lake without suitable escort.
“Kristina e-mailed me and asked if I’d push her into freezing cold water,” laughs Maren’s husband, Rod. “I said I’d love to.”
At shortly after noon, borne across the ice by Rod and her dad, Princess Kristina officially kicked off 2009’s Evergreen Lake Plunge as she and her two attendants leapt together into the icy lake — a mighty splash, a roar of approval from shore, and a quick trip to the Old Warming Hut for a change of raiment, a goblet of hot cocoa courtesy of Caffe di Lucca, and the warm congratulations of her subjects.
More than 120 of her subjects followed Princess Kristina into the drink, a 65 percent jump up from last year’s tally and easily commensurate with the general increase in generosity. For one thing, Kristina wasn’t the only person present eligible to wear a tiara. This year’s National American Miss Colorado, 21-year-old Larkspur resident Michelle Matlock, showed up with a treasure room of plush toys for the Stuffed Animals for Emergencies program, which supplies fuzzy comfort to kids who find themselves in sticky situations. For her part, local businesswoman and titular chief of Team Baskin-Robbins, Anne Hunter, proudly pledged 31 percent of the day’s receipts — a sweet 250 smackers — to the cause.
“This community is really volunteer driven, and everybody really rallied to help,” said Drive Smart’s executive director, Jackie Mohr. “And everybody really rallied behind Kristina.”
Did they ever. Of nearly $8,000 raised on New Year’s Day, more than $2,300 wore Kristina’s coat-of-arms, and donations in her name are still rolling in. While that’s certainly gratifying to Kristina’s mom, Susanne Orth, seeing the lift in her daughter’s spirits was more precious than crown jewels.
“When she came out of the water with that big smile on her face …” Susanne beamed. “That’s what this is all about.”
Tired, but triumphant, Kristine bade her brother to accompany her back to the parking lot in advance of a richly deserved nap. She was still smiling, of course.
“Are you glad you did it?” asked Riley.
“I’m glad I’m out,” she grinned.
Those wishing to make a belated donation in Kristina Halstead’s name should visit www.drivesmarte-c.org.