13th Annual Washington County Community College Polar Bear Dip

Members of the Washington County Community College Student Senate recently visited the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor. Each year the Student Senate donates proceeds from its annual WCCC Polar Bear Dip to the house. (WCCC photo)

CALAIS _ It is time for the big splash in Passamaquoddy Bay as the 13th annual Washington County Community College Polar Bear Dip inches closer and closer to the big day.

The annual dip will be held at noon on Friday, March 1, at Split Rock on the Passamaquoddy Reservation at Pleasant Point. WCCC Senate President Christine Phillips, who was one of the heroic dippers last year, said that she had nothing but praise for the Passamaquoddy tribal government who again this year will have police and EMS/EMT personnel on hand.

There also will be three people in dry suits in the water who are from WCCC who will help out in the event of an emergency. “They are brave volunteers,” said Phillips.

If you are looking to dip or just want to be a spectator be sure to get to the site between 11 a.m.  and 11:30 a.m.  for a culinary treat. Again this year, WCCC Culinary Art’s students will hold their annual Chili Cook-Off contest.  A similar event was held last year and those who tasted the various student-made chilis pronounced them lip-smacking good.

The Maine National Guard will be on hand with snacks and tents where swimmers can change their clothes and get warm once the dip is over.

Again, this year the money raised goes to the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor.

Last year’s 12th annual dip raised more than $22,000 after 150 stout-hearted souls jumped into the Passamaquoddy Bay. The WCCC Student Senate, who sponsors the event, hopes to raise that and more during this year’s fun-filled frolic.  To date, the Student Senate has raised more than $150,000 for the house.

Earlier this month, the Student Senate had an opportunity to tour the Bangor facility. Phillips said it was phenomenal. There is large a kitchen and common area and several single- and family-style bedrooms. “It is a beautiful house,” she said.

Karen Gookin, WCCC Resident Housing director, said it was her fourth visit to the facility and she said she remained impressed. The 14-bed facility helps nearly 450 families a year who must stay near medical facilities in Bangor because of either a seriously ill or injured child. Since 2008, it has been home to as many as 76 pediatric families from either Washington or Hancock County. 

Gookin said one of her friends whose child was hospitalized in Bangor stayed there for six weeks. “It made all of the difference in the world for her,” she said. Except for a $10 voluntary donation, families and parents can stay for free.

Phillips explained why each year the Student Senate has made the Ronald McDonald House its primary fundraiser. “This is such a rural area and it is difficult for families to travel such a long ways to Bangor to see their baby or young child and it is so important for families to be nearby,” she said. “So the WCCC Student Senate wants to be there to help our area families and one way we can do that is by supporting the Ronald McDonald House.”

Looking ahead to the dip, Phillips said she hoped for good weather. In the past, temperatures have ranged from a bone-chilling below zero to above 20 degrees. But once again there will be a huge bonfire to keep everyone warm. “The WCCC welding class made us a permanent fire pit that we bring with us to build the fire in,” Phillips said. 

“So nothing is left behind the on beach that might not be good for the environment,” Gookin added 

Participants from both sides of the international border including from St. Stephen and St, Andrews, New Brunswick are expected to participate again this year.  “There will be individual and team dippers from high schools, colleges and local businesses,” Phillips said. “We have dippers from all over the state as well. The colleges will bring a whole van full of students down to participate so it is a widespread event.”

Sponsor forms can be obtained at the college or on the school’s web site at www.wccc.me.edu.  Those who turn in pledge sheets with $75 or more will receive a hooded sweatshirt with this year’s Polar Bear Dip design on the back to commemorate their adventure.