There aren’t many things that can make a group of people want to run into the Passamaquoddy Bay in late winter, but the Polar Bear Dip is one of them. Now in its 18th year, the Polar Bear Dip raised more than $10,200 thanks to the efforts of 42 dippers who collected donations from the community. All of the donations will be presented to the Ronald McDonald House and Sarah’s House in the Bangor area, both of which provide temporary lodging for those who have to travel a long way for specific kinds of medical treatments – a situation that many Eastern Washington County residents find themselves in.
The Polar Bear Dip began as a dare between the members of the Hiking Club at WCCC; at the time, Tess Ftorek was an advisor to the Student Senate. The Student Senate picked up the event in 2000 with a goal of raising funds for the Ronald McDonald House. “One of the students had a family member that needed to stay at the Ronald McDonald house,” Ftorek explained. “They just said, ‘this works for us, being so far away from a major medical facility’, and then Sarah’s House came into being and the Senate decided to split the proceeds between them.”
Dippers at Friday’s event at Split Rock enjoyed what Ftorek described as “one of the warmest days we’ve had”, with the air temperature in the low 40s and the water temperature not far behind. “We’ve had sea smoke in the past,” Ftorek said, describing conditions that occur when very cold air rolls over warmer water. As someone who has been involved with the event since its inception, Ftorek hasn’t missed a single dip. This year marks the most she has ever collected in a single year, however, at nearly $3,500. “I’m very proud of the school, I’m proud of the Senate, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The event is organized each year by the Student Senate, but many organizations and individuals come together to make it happen. This year, Nook and Cranny provided free meat and vegetarian chili to dippers, something that owner Steve Clark was happy to do. “The Nook and Cranny is there for those who care,” Clark shared. Dunkin Donuts provided free donuts and beverages, and Team Dunkin Donuts dipped in part to honor their recently deceased friend and fellow employee, Jason Lincoln. The Passamaquoddy EMS team provided safety measures, along with a dive team from WCCC.
For Student Senate member Tara Peterson, the event encapsulates the college itself. “Everybody is supportive and helps one another out,” Peterson said, describing how even as a commuter she feels involved in the student body. This is Peterson’s second year dipping, and she was glad to be a part of it. “It’s a good cause, it’s all worth it, it brings the community together. You always hear about such negative things, it’s nice to have some positivity.”