WCCC Polar Bear Dip

The 14th annual Washington County Community College Polar Bear Dip has a new twist to it this year, the proceeds from the icy plunge will benefit both children and adults alike.

Money raised by the dippers, who each year plunge into the frigid Passamaquoddy Bay, will be divided between the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor and the new Sarah’s House in Brewer.

This year’s Polar Bear Dip is scheduled for Friday, January 31, 2014 at noon at Split Rock on the Passamaquoddy Reservation.

In 2013, WCCC was named one of “America’s Top 50 Community Colleges” by Washington Monthly. The college was named number 24 out of 700 community colleges nationwide.

For 13 years, the money raised from the dip has been donated exclusively to the Ronald McDonald House to help families of children who travel to Bangor for critical medical treatment. The Ronald McDonald House was founded in 1983 and has provided lodging to more than 15,000 families with seriously ill children. Each year upwards of 500 families stay at the house with more than half of them from either Washington or Aroostook counties.

But with the announcement of the construction of a housing facility for adults receiving cancer treatments, the Student Senate decided to donate proceeds to both agencies.

 “Sarah’s House is a new housing center in Brewer for adults who have cancer and Ronald McDonald will be for children in need of treatment so the Student Senate decided to divide the proceeds from the dip 50/50,” Karen Gookin, WCCC director of Residential Housing said recently.

According to the Sarah’s House fact sheet, on any given day CancerCare of Maine sees upwards of 300 patients and of those, more than 130 travel 30 or more miles each way to receive cancer services. Although each patient’s treatment is unique, it is not uncommon for some patients to visit the facility as much as 40 times in the first year for treatment.

Translating those numbers locally, in Washington County on average more than 675 patients each year require three of more weeks of treatment and live 80 plus miles from the site. 

The Student Senate is optimistic that enough money will be raised next year to benefit both facilities. On average, the dip raises more than $20,000, but last year that number was down after a snowstorm forced the date to be moved ahead by a week. “A snow blizzard hit on the day it was scheduled and with the change to a new date, a lot of people could not attend,” Gookin said. Last year, the dip raised $13,345.

With each dip, the Student Senate chooses a catchy theme and this year is no exception. In celebration of the upcoming Valentine’s Day, just 14 days later, the Student Senate dubbed this year’s dip “Cupid’s Plunge.” Participants, who each year chooses whimsical dress to celebrate the theme, are expected to show up with slings and arrows and lots of dangling valentines.

Again this year, there will be a contest using the Cupid’s Plunge theme and the design that is chosen will be adorned on the back of the sweatshirts that are handed out at the dip to individuals who raise $75 or more in donations. Something new this year, the contest will be open only to WCCC students. There will be one winner who will have the honor of seeing his/her design on the back of the sweatshirt and also will be awarded one free three-credit class. The deadline for the design contest is Nov. 20.

Another twist this year, the winning design will be chosen by independent judges. In years past, the Student Senate voted on the design.  “The judges will see the designs, but will not know who the artist is,” she said. “They will vote solely on the picture.”

Gookin said the Student Senate already is very involved in preparation for the dip. “We have already started,” she said. 

Although she does not plan to take the plunge, Gookin said she is planning on good weather. “It is going to be lots of sunshine and in the forties,” she said with a hearty laugh.