2020 Polar Plunge

Ketchikan resident Chevy Horval gets ready to take part in the 2020 Polar Plunge, presented by Special Olympics Alaska, this past week near the Stedman Street bridge. Photo courtesy of Chevy Horval

Having been born and raised in Southeast Alaska, Chevy Horval is no stranger to the ocean.

And so, Horval turned to several frosty dips in Ketchikan waters — and a little help from social media — to raise money for Special Olympics Alaska's 2020 Polar Plunge.

This year is Special Olympics Alaska's 12th Polar Plunge.

During a typical year, participants take a dip in Goose Lake in Anchorage, pledging money for the state's Special Olympics athletes, and nominating friends and family to do the same.

Due to COVID-19, SOAK decided to turn the plunge into a virtual opportunity for all Alaskans.

SOAK aims to this year gather 10,000 participants from around the state, and during the first statewide virtual Polar Plunge, emphasized creative takes on the annual event.  

"Whether you’re having someone dump a bucket of ice water on you while you’re dancing to your favorite TikTok song, or a water balloon fight in the snow, the opportunities are endless," a SOAK press release read.

Ketchikan's Chevy Horval decided to take on the challenge using her large following on the video sharing service TikTok.

Horval spoke to the Daily News on Thursday morning about her efforts, which culminated in more than $3,000 raised for SOAK.

She was inspired by her "bonus mom" Jessica Matthews, who in years past also has been an avid fundraiser.

Horval's goal was to raise $3,000 during the Polar Plunge, and she surpassed that amount in just a week, ending her efforts on Nov. 7 with a live video.

"I thought that I could do this fundraising via TikTok, because I have, like, over 90,000 followers on TikTok, and I've seen some videos where people do, like, 'Hey, if you send a dollar, I could do this and this,' ... just helping people that way," Horval explained. "I was like 'Hey, I could probably try that."

She put out a video on TikTok explaining her idea, and then started posting regular videos for the 2020 Polar Plunge.

"And in each video, I would jump into the ocean and say, 'If I make it to my goal, I will go live on TikTok,' which is something I haven't done yet, and in about a week, it only took like seven jumps in the water for me to reach that goal of $3,000," she said.

Horval took seven different plunges before meeting her fundraising goal.

She jumped into waters near Mountain Point boat launch and also near the downtown berths.

For the video she streamed live on TikTok, she took a plunge from the Stedman Street bridge.

Horval said she wasn't apprehensive about the jumps.

"I actually do them a lot," Horval said. "I started last year, jumping in every day and just sitting in the water for, you know, one to 25 minutes, just to help with back pain. It's not too scary for me, but it's a lot of fun."

According to Horval, social media is useful for large fundraising efforts, although TikTok didn't start out as a fundraising community.

"I think TikTok kind of started out as just, like, dancing and singing, kind of entertaining stuff, but it's definitely morphed into something greater than that," said Horval, who joined the platform earlier this spring. "Like, you can build community on TikTok — right now, mine is basically me showing Alaska off and Alaskan facts and all that."

Horval said that she often sees videos where a "TikToker" does a random deed, such as tip a pizza delivery person $500, just to "make their day."

These types of videos often garner donations to the TikTok user who posted the video.

"A lot of the people on TikTok who watch it will go to that TikToker's page and give them money just so they can keep doing that kind of stuff," she said. "And it's just incredible."

She noted that when using TikTok for fundraising or spreading a message, "the options are limitless, really."

"You could definitely spread your message quick," she said.

She also noted that the ongoing pandemic has aided in attracting more people to social media, including TikTok.

"I think a lot of people are staying home and they're on their social media a lot more," she commented.

Horval isn't raising money for the 2020 Polar Plunge anymore, but her videos remain on her TikTok profile.

Horval asked that the funds she raised would be designated for Ketchikan athletes, but "wherever it goes will help."

As of Friday.  morning, Horval was the second-highest fundraiser in the state, according to Special Olympics Alaska Vice President Sarah Arts.