Treyton Lanning takes his first epic leap into Mill Creek as a Polar Plunger.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Treyton Lanning takes his first epic leap into Mill Creek as a Polar Plunger. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Treyton Lanning is a bumpy anti-cancer plunger.

"I was thinking, 'This is totally crazy'," said the Chatfield 9-year-old who tiptoed to the edge of Mill Creek on Saturday, Jan. 25, to participate in the 2014 Chatfield Fire Department Chill Fest Polar Plunge. His goose bumps rising in the subzero temperatures, seemingly dwarfing his frame, Treyton stood there, gathering his courage.

"Then I kept telling myself, 'I can do this, I can do this,' over and over. I was glad that I didn't know how cold the water would be...I was just getting ready to feel the coldness of the water," he added.

Treyton, son of Tim and Laura Lanning, decided approximately a week before the Polar Plunge that he really wanted to go into the local waterway half-dressed in his swim trunks to help raise awareness and funds for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

He stated, "Everyone was talking about that there was an age limit, and I said, 'I don't think there should be'."

Initially, Laura was apprehensive about allowing her son to plunge, as she worried about the shock to his body and immune system. So, she "turned to good old Facebook" to ask others what they thought might be the right thing to do. She felt relieved that she wasn't being considered an overprotective or under-protective parent, one who openly admits that she couldn't possibly have gone into the creek.

"They said, 'If he wants to, let him. It's an experience.' My brother, Luke, was one of the safety swimmers sitting in the water, so it helped to know that he'd be right there, too. Treyton's big into setting goals for himself, so I knew he could do it."

In fact, just two months ago, Treyton was kicking to raise funds for cancer research during the Yennie Martial Arts Kickin' for Cancer event, at which he earned first place and raised $1,400 in pledges.

Since he decided to be a plunger only days before the plunge, Treyton didn't have time to raise pledges for St. Jude's, so his family made a donation. However, the very fact that he volunteered to plunge was a demonstration of solidarity for the children who receive treatment at St. Jude's, a healthy rebellion against the illnesses they suffer.

He almost changed his mind when he arrived at Mill Creek with his family to face the dark, unforgiving waters, but that's when "Barber Dave" Dudek, a die-hard plunge enthusiast and Treyton's friend, caught up with him and convinced him - with a few high fives and a hearty pep talk - that he could do anything he set out to do, including jumping into a winter river.

He was the first plunger, introduced as "Treyton Lanning from Chatfield, weighing in at 375 pounds," though he speculates that he's only about 65 on a soaking wet afternoon.

He went in, he came out, he experienced the reality of his decision. "It didn't really hurt, but it felt like I was going to die, it was so cold. Getting out, I was thinking 'I can't wait to get to the hot tub.' When I was running away, my hair felt like ice cubes."

Thatcher Pools and Spas provided hot tubs for plungers to thaw in, so that's where Treyton sprinted after he got out. "The coldest part of all of it was when I got out. It's probably the coldest I've ever been," he said.

Laura had a difficult time extracting him from the hot tub as he happily boiled his blood next to Barber Dave, but she had to get him and his frozen hair home to a shower, dry clothes and a quiet afternoon on the couch with hot chocolate and movies. It was during this time when he finally declared, after some post-plunge reticence, that he would be plunging again at the ripe old age of 10.

It seems he's become somewhat of a crazy hero in his siblings' eyes. His younger brother, Maddox, thought, "It was good and crazy" and something he might try when he's 9.

His sisters, Hadlee and Reeyin, both called Treyton's plunge "awesome!" - a preschooler's best assessment of the really cool things big brothers do.

Treyton's friends and teachers were on the bridge to watch him go in and get out, and his uncle, Luke, called him "brave" for participating.

"My friends thought I was absolutely crazy, though," he stated as his mom imagined a shiver.

The 2014 Chatfield Chill Fest Polar Plunge was a success - plungers raised an estimated total of $2,750 for St. Jude's, according to firefighter Dean Irish, who was pleased to announce that number, adding that cousins Luke Isensee and Paige Isensee alone raised over $1,000.