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‘Big Dipper’ dives into fundraising for Special Olympics

‘Big dipper’ Mike Plourde of Fort Kent (right) raises over $4,000 to support Aroostook Special Olympics on Sunday, May 1, on Long Lake. (File photo)

FORT KENT, Maine — A longtime supporter of the Polar Dip for Aroostook Special Olympics is once again raising funds for the cause, with assured success. The Polar Dip is just under a month away, and Mike Plourde, 50, of Fort Kent has already collected more than $1,700 in pledges from local businesses and members of the community.

This is Plourde’s sixth year participating in the fundraiser, which culminates in participants taking a dip into the cold waters of Long Lake from the shore of the Long Lake Sporting Club.

Since he has no vehicle, Plourde attains the funds primarily by walking around town knocking on doors and simply asking for support. Plourde became aware of the Polar Dip through his membership with the Fort Kent Knights of Columbus, which sponsors the annual fundraiser.

Plourde, who is also a volunteer at The Good Shepherd Thrift Store, provided a simple explanation for his altruistic efforts.

“I just have an interest in trying to help out the community and stuff,” he said.  “I try to focus on the positive more than the negative. There’s so much negativity in the world that I try to make my own world around me a better place.”

So far this year, Plourde has acquired pledges big and small, the biggest being $250. Plourde’s ability to bring in pledge money has earned him the nickname “The Big Dipper” among others who take the polar plunge.

“It doesn’t really matter how much they give me. What matters is we’re all coming together for a good cause and stuff. Even if they give a dollar — it’s all appreciated,” Plourde said.

Plourde’s goal is to collect $2,000 in pledges before the dip, which takes place the first Sunday each May.

In 2016 dippers raised more than $8,400 for Aroostook Special Olympics, and have raised more than $30,000 over the years, all of which stays in The County, according to Polar Dip organizer Duane Belanger.

Anyone is welcome to join the Polar Dip, but must raise at least $1 to participate. The dipper who raises the most money through pledges will receive a $100 gift certificate to the Long Lake Sporting Club. Those who raise at least $50 will receive a free T-shirt.

For those who want to join in the dip but remain warm and relatively dry, a “chicken pool” will be available on the grounds of the Sporting Club.

“The chicken pool is a 5-foot children’s plastic pool filled with water so dippers who do not want to enter the lake can stick their foot in water,” Belanger said. “In six years we have never had anyone use it.”

There will be plenty to eat at the Polar Dip. The Aroostook Special Olympics Committee will offer hotdogs, coffee and hot cocoa in exchange for donations. The Long Lake Sporting Club staff will prepare a chicken stew and ployes lunch free to the community. The meal is sponsored by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Belanger said he appreciates the efforts of Plourde and other participants to support Aroostook Special Olympics.

“Mike is amazing, he raises an enormous number of funds each year. All the dippers are committed to the cause of raising funds to help those who have been shunned by society in the past,” he said. “It is rewarding to see the smiles and the enthusiasm as they charge into the icy waters and the glowing pride as they are drying off, realizing they have truly made a difference in the lives of some very special people.”

Belanger said he is also thankful for the efforts of Long Lake Sporting Club, Friendly Valley Lodging, North Lakes Fire and Rescue, the Aroostook Ambulance Service and the Maine Warden Service Dive Team

The Polar Dip for Aroostook Special Olympics will take place on Sunday, May 7 at Long Lake Sporting Club. Registration will take place from 11 a.m. until dipping time, at noon. Pledge sheets and participant packets are available at www.freezeitforspecialolympics.org

For more information about the Polar Dip call Duane Belanger at (207) 231-1932 or send an email to dssmaine@roadrunner.com

To make a pledge to Mike Plourde’s dip, call him at (207) 834-3643.

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