Supporters take plunge in near freezing Long Lake to raise funds for Special Olympics
MADAWASKA, Maine — More than 80 supporters of Special Olympics took the plunge into the freezing waters of Long Lake on Sunday to raise funds for the cause.
This was the largest turnout for participants of the Polar Dip since the event was started seven years ago, according to Duane Belanger, the event’s coordinator.
At about 10:30 a.m., Belanger said he was not sure how many people would participate.
“We usually have about 30 dippers,” he said. “I have a feeling we will have more since people are already showing up.”
By the time the dip was in full motion at about noon, 83 participants gathered at the Long Lake Sporting Club and made it into the water.
The cheering gallery also was not short on supporters.
“In the past we have have had 100 people, if not more, supporting the dippers,” Belanger said.
There were at least 200 supporters, including four four-legged friends.
Members of the North Lake Fire and Rescue team were present at the event, as they had been the last seven years. For the last two years, they have donned cold water rescue suits and joined participants in the water.
“We are here for public safety, and it is good training for us,” said Captain Josh Belanger of North Lake Fire and Rescue. “We are here to support the public.”
Many of the participants were there to support Special Olympics because the organization has, in some way, had a positive effect on their lives.
Lora Cyr participated in the Polar Dip for the first time, in honor of her little brother, Devin, who has Down Syndrome.
“I am so excited to see Devin’s face,” Cyr said. “That is what is motivating me to go in.”
When Devin was asked if he was going to go into the water with his big sister, he shook his head and said it was too cold.
The water temperature for the event was recorded at 36 degrees Fahrenheit with a layer of ice still present on the water toward the center of the lake.
Tammy Guerrette participated in the dip for her daughter, Shelby, who also has Down Syndrome.
“My daughter is in Special Olympics and I want her to keep participating,” Guerrette said. “She started in elementary school and now she is 15.”
Money was raised by people pledging donations for the dippers to go into the water.
“My mom helped with most of the pledging,” Guerrette said.
After the participants plunged into the near freezing water, Shelby was right there with a towel for her mom.
“They got all wet,” Shelby said. “It was great. Mom’s hair is wet. She’s brave. She got wet for the Special Olympics.”
The oath of athletes for the Special Olympics is, “Let me win. But If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
All participants of the Polar Dip demonstrated their bravery, and the cause and meaning for Special Olympics won.
Follow Morgan Mitchell on Twitter @TheMaineMorgan