One recent morning, Alyssa Shaw woke up and saw a crazy video on Facebook.
A friend had gone and jumped in a lake. In frigid water. She couldn’t help but smile at the silliness.
Then there was another video of someone else taking a similar leap. Then another. And each time these people splashed into a chilly lake or pool, they did it in the name of her ailing 5-month-old son.
Now people across the nation — and in several countries across the world — are taking what has been dubbed the “Plunge for Landon.”
“It started one day and then, bam, it’s all over the world in a week,” Shaw, of rural Tarkio, Mo., said Sunday night. “It went to Afghanistan, Switzerland and Italy. All over the place.”
In late February, Landon’s parents, Alyssa and her husband, Brandon, discovered the boy was sick. They had taken him to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City after he kept throwing up and losing weight.
They eventually learned he was battling a rare cancer that first hit his kidney and now is in his brain. In the weeks since the northwest Missouri boy was diagnosed, he has had four surgeries, gone days without eating and in the words of his mother, “still puts a smile on his face.”
Soon after residents in Tarkio — which is two hours north of Kansas City — learned of Landon’s condition, the prayers started. Then the bake sales and bucket donations to help the family that many in the area have known all their lives.
“Obviously they are very loved,” Lydia Hurst, of Tarkio, said of the Shaws. “For generations both sides have lived here. When this came up, people wanted to help and do anything they can.”
The family is on Medicaid, which won’t cover all of the costs coming in.
About 10 days ago, the fundraiser started to take shape with a group of fathers in the Tarkio community taking the challenge and eventually dedicating it to Landon.
The idea was for people to plunge into cold water and challenge at least three others to do the same. Plungers pledge to donate a certain amount of money to Landon’s fund for each person they challenge who jumps within 24 hours.
By Sunday night, a solid week after Tarkio resident Josh Wright set up thePlunge for Landon! Facebook page
, there were 22,000 members.
Scroll through the page, and you see and hear from people dedicated to helping little Landon.
A group of women who work at a hair salon. Firefighters. Schools challenging other schools. A farmer and his wife. Soldiers in Germany and Afghanistan.
Even U.S. Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri took the plunge.
Some people go to the page and click on video after video.
“I have an addiction, I think,” said Natasha Nichols, of Maryville, Mo., who knows the Shaws. “I look at (the Facebook page) every five minutes. You have those tears, and then that laughter. It’s like a whole whirlwind of emotions.”
Nichols didn’t even need to be challenged to take a leap for the little boy. She just called up her friend Kimberly Wolfe a week ago and said, “OK, I want to take the plunge for Landon. Let’s go.”
Wolfe was game. In fact, she has jumped into frigid waters two more times for Landon and challenged 15 others to do the same.
“I keep telling people if they keep challenging me, I’m going to go jump and challenge more people,” Wolfe said.
By Sunday night, only three states hadn’t been represented in the plunge for Landon, said Hurst, one of the organizers. It had been four, but someone in Delaware jumped by the end of the day.
Already, the effort has raised more than $30,000.
Alyssa Shaw admits she has her sad moments. The past six weeks have been riddled with them.
But then she’ll get on Facebook and see the hundreds of people taking the plunge for her son.
She’ll watch the videos and laugh. At times Landon will sit with her, staring down at her phone. When he’s in a good mood, she says, he’ll laugh.
“All we asked for was prayers, and it’s gone way beyond that,” Alyssa Shaw said. “Sometimes I don’t know even know what to think about it. About how my son has so much support.”