'Cold Water Challenge' spreading throughout Midwest, danger remains

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Is it a fun way to connect with friends and raise money for a good cause, or a dangerous stunt into uncharted waters? The trend called the Cold Water Challenge is spreading on social media throughout the Midwest.

Here's how it works, people are challenged to jump into cold water, and if they don't, they need to donate to a charity. After completing it, they challenge others, and the chain continues. But the DNR says the temperature and speed of the water right now can be dangerous.

New Richmond high school senior Hannah Swetlik took the challenge, and challenged her friend, Mattie Kidder to do the same at Mary Park.

“My friend's boyfriend nominated her so she nominated me.” Kidder said.

“Your friend or family records your nomination and who you nominate and you say you have 24 hours to jump in the pond or a cold body of water and you just run in and get out as fast as you can,” Swetlik said.

“I dove in and first you didn't really feel anything and then when you got up to run to the shore, my body just froze and it felt numb,” Kidder said.

Anyone who fails to complete the challenge in 24 hours is told they have to donate money to charity.

But water at 40 to 50 degrees with unknown debris below the surface has proved to be dangerous.

A Fond du Lac teen suffered muscle and ligament damage in her knee and a Michigan man is reportedly paralyzed after diving into a lake as part of the challenge.

“We encourage folks to go to areas they're familiar with, go in large groups, so there's people there to support you if you have an incident where sometimes with the strong current this time of year, you get in the water, there's an involuntary gasp and you find yourself floating down river, a very dangerous situation,” DNR Warden Scott Thiede said.

“If you jump from a bridge, or even from a cliff, like I've seen in videos, that's pretty dangerous, so it all depends on how you look at it and go about it,” Swetlik said.

The DNR recommends not jumping in where there's a current, and to have a way to get warm fast, to avoid hypothermia.