Friday, January 21, 2022

Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip raising needed funds for food pantries

A team of jumpers from Hannaford dive into Sebago Lake
during the Polar Dip event offshore from Raymond Beach
last winter. The event raised more than $5,000 for 'Feed
the Need' which supports food pantries throughout the
Lakes Region of Maine. This year's Polar dip is scheduled
to be held on Feb. 19. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Collette Hayes

The Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip, an annual bone chilling event hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lakes Rotary Club, is seeking brave Mainers willing to plunge themselves into chilly Sebago Lake next month.

Community volunteers, swimmers, spectators, media and Raymond Fire and Rescue, dressed in thermal-insulated wet suits just in case of an emergency, will gather on the ice of Sebago Lake near Raymond Beach on Saturday, Feb. 19. They will cheer, provide team support, and participate in the countdown, as Polar Dip jumpers launch themselves into the frigid waters of Sebago Lake to raise needed funds for local food pantries.

The Polar Dip is one activity during the Fishing Derby activities held the same weekend. This year proceeds raised for both events will benefit “Feed the Need,” which provides support for local food pantries in the Sebago Lakes Region in Casco, Gray, Naples New Gloucester, Raymond, Sebago, Standish and Windham.

“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 in 2021,” said Robin Mullins, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “I asked if the proceeds could benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber’s Charitable Fund or what we call ‘Feed the Need.’ Food security in the region is an issue and we need to do something about it. The whole premise behind the Polar Dip event is to be able to give money to the food pantries in the region.”

According to Mullins, participants will take pledges to take the plunge into a large rectangular hole cut into the foot-thick ice and 34-degree water of Sebago Lake.

“We would like to get as many people involved in the Polar Dip as possible,” Mullins said. “All of the proceeds raised from the event stays here in this community and provides security and food for those in need.”

For those who are not enthusiastic about leaping into the icy waters of Sebago Lake but still would like to make a donation can do so by going to the Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce website and choosing an alternative option.

“Information for participating in other ways is on the Chamber website,” said Mullins. “Donations can be made directly to Feed the Need or individuals can gather sponsors and then video a fun snow activity such as a snowball contest in PJs or filling a small pool outdoors and jumping into it.”

Once again this year, “The Even Keel Committee,” a group of five women from South Portland, are planning to participate in this year’s Polar Dip event. Last year, members of the group took pledges for how long they could stay in the lake during the event. Despite the cold temperature, they remained in the water for 10 minutes and were instrumental in raising $4,000 in donations.

According to Peggy Armstrong, an Even Keel Committee member, the group of five swim in the ocean throughout the year which is ideal training for the Polar Dip event. Members hope to once again raise funds this year to help support “Feed the Need.”

Two heated trailers will be provided for the participants. Polar Dip participants are advised to pack oversized jackets, warm drinks and towels. It is advised to wear some type of water shoe but not Crocs. When standing on the bottom of the lake, the mud has a tendency to pull them off.

“We’re excited to have heated trailers donated this year for those participating,” Mullins said. All jumps are scheduled so participants will have full access to the trailers to store their belongings during their scheduled jump time.

For those interested in participating in this year’s Polar Dip, jumpers must register at Participants will be given a specific jump time from noon to 3 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for “Best Costumes” and “Largest Fundraisers” for the Polar Dip. <

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