The 16th annual Polar Bear Dip is rapidly approaching, prompting participants to put out rallying calls to raise donations for a very worthy cause. Sponsored by Washington County Community College’s Student Senate, all funds raised from the event will be split between Sarah’s House and the Ronald McDonald House, both in the Bangor area.
The Ronald McDonald House and Sarah’s House perform an important function for the communities of Eastern Maine. Because of Washington County’s remote nature, individuals affected by cancer and other critical conditions have no option but to travel more than 90 miles one way to receive treatment. For many families, the financial strain of travel and lodging during the course of multiple treatments becomes unmanageable, which is where the Ronald McDonald House and Sarah’s House come in. The former provides a place to stay for children and their families who are receiving treatment in Bangor, while the latter is specifically for adults in need of a place to stay.
Having impacts to such resources as the Ronald McDonald House and Sarah’s House directly affects the survival rates of those affected by critical illness. The number of families and individuals that have been helped by the respective facilities is profound. “Since Sarah’s House opened in October 2014, we have had 110 guests stay (plus their caregivers),” house manager Delores said. Combined with its Portland facility, the Ronald McDonald House provided lodging for 643 families last year.
More than $200,000 has been raised by the Polar Bear Dip for the Ronald McDonald House and Sarah’s House since it began in 2000. Participants run as a group into the ice cold waters of Passamaquoddy Bay for a quick dip before retreating to the warm tents of the National Guard on shore. Each participant is sponsored by funds from their friends and family members. Those who collect more than $75 will receive a complementary sweatshirt featuring this year’s event logo.
Recognizing the importance of the cause, one supporter of the event has issued a challenge to those who leave the area during the winter to participate wherever they may be. “If we can get folks to dip and give wherever they are, it would be fun!” Tess Ftorek enthused. Out-of-state participants that raise enough money for the event and then take a photo of themselves dipping will be mailed a sweatshirt.
The theme this year is “Freezin’ for a Reason”, and participants are encouraged to dress in an appropriate outfit of their choice. Student Senate member Tanika Niles came up with the winning logo design for the event, earning her a free three-credit course of her choosing.
The National Guard tents will provide a place for participants to change before the dip and to warm up afterwards, with medical personnel on hand if needed. Dunkin Donuts will be providing hot chocolate and coffee while the WCCC Culinary Arts program will have free chili available for all participants.
This year’s event will take place on March 11th at noon at the Pleasant Point Reservation pier. To become a participant, stop by WCCC to pick up a sponsor form or visit www.wccc.me.edu/wp-content/uploads/pledge-sheet-for-Polar-Dip-2016.pdf. All checks should be made payable to WCCC Polar Bear Dip.