Friday, February 26, 2021

Polar Dip plungers plummet into Sebago Lake for 'Feed the Need'

By Ed Pierce

Hannaford employees embrace the icy waters of Sebago Lake
during the Polar Dip event just offshore from Raymond Beach
on Saturday, Feb. 20. Hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region
Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club, the
event helped raise more than $5,000 for 'Feed the Need,' which
provides funding for food pantries across the Lakes Region.

Plunging into the icy waters of Sebago Lake in February isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but for some intrepid individuals last weekend, diving into the lake was a moment of fun they simply couldn’t pass up.

Swimmers and a crowd of volunteers gathered on Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach on Saturday for the Polar Dip, hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club. Proceeds from the event raised more than $5,000 to benefit “Feed the Need,” which benefits food pantries in the Sebago Lakes Region in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham. 

Jumping into a large rectangular hole cut into the foot-thick ice and 34-degree water, swimmers took pledges to take the plunge and one team went beyond that and took pledges for how long they could stay in the near-freezing water. 

“Although COVID-19 limited the number of jumpers we could have at this year's Polar Dip, it didn't limit the generosity or the spirit of the people in the Sebago Lakes region,” said Robin Mullins, executive director of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “From the Sebago Lakes Rotary, especially George Bartlett, who partnered with us on this event, to the volunteers who helped set up, to the folks who came to watch, and to the brave souls who took the plunge into the 34-degree Sebago Lake, I say, ‘Thank You’ and I feel so blessed to live and work in such a great region where people come together to help one another.”

This marked the first time that the chamber has hosted the Polar Dip and Mullins said the opportunity to stage a fun outdoor event safely during the pandemic while helping alleviate hunger in the Sebago Lakes Region made it a perfect match for the chamber.

“George Bartlett from Busy Bee Laundry in Windham is a member of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club and wanted to bring the Polar Dip back as part of the Sebago Lakes Rotary Fishing Derby for 2021, Mullins said. “He approached me and asked if I would help. I quickly jumped at that and asked if proceeds could benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber's Charitable Trust, or what we call ‘Feed The Need.’ Food insecurity in our communities is at an all-time high and the $5,000 the event brought in will go a long way in helping the 11 food pantries in Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.”

Sam Speirs of Portland heard about the Polar Dip event through a friend and said she immediately knew that she wanted to be a jumper.

“I’ve done the Lobster Dip in Old Orchard Beach to help the Special Olympics every year, but that was done virtually this year because of COVID-19,” Speirs said. “For this, I was able to raise about $60 through pledges from my friends and that’s why I’m out here today.”

Bartlett said he was pleased to see so many people show up for a good cause and thanked participants, the chamber and everyone who helped stage the Polar Dip.

“Everything out here today was set up by volunteers and they deserve a lot of gratitude,” he said. “We had a heater for the changing tents for the jumpers donated and the tents themselves were also donated. We also are appreciative for public safety personnel who are out here today standing by to assist if needed.”

Several members of Raymond Fire and Rescue were on hand and wore thermal-insulated wet suits just in case of an emergency. Volunteer crews also directed traffic into the Raymond Beach Boat Launch off Route 302 so participants and their families could park safely.

A group of five women from South Portland calling themselves the “Even Keel Committee” wore colorful Mardi Gras costumes when they took the plunge and despite the chilly temperatures, remained in the water for 10 minutes. Members of the group said they have been swimming in the ocean throughout the winter and that was ideal experience to prepare for the Polar Dip. They actually took in pledges for how long they could stay in the lake during the event.  

Zach Conley of Raymond said he wasn’t expecting to be the final jumper of the event, but as it turned out, he was.

Conley serves as president of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and when asked to be a participant, he politely declined.

“I was asked months ago to jump in the lake, and I told them there’s no way I’m going to do that,” he said. “But they came up with some challenges for me that were hard to say no to, especially when it came to increasing the amount raised to more than $1,000. I received a text message last week that they had surpassed that amount, so here I am. I’ve never really done anything like this before but it’s for a good cause and just a few minutes of my time to help others.”

He bounced in and out of the water wearing a thermal shirt and a bathing suit and afterward said he could sum up his experience in two words.

“Really cold,” Conley said as he dried off. <

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.