Polar Dip makes splash at Sebago Lake

Mark Shapp of Westbrook, dressed in a penguin suit, said he has raised more than $56,000 over thirteen years participating in the Shaw's Polar Dip on Sebago Lake. 

RAYMOND — The weather cooperated for the 16th annual Shaw’s Polar Dip, providing sun and warm temperatures for the participants willing to jump off the ice and into Sebago Lake for a good cause.

The Feb. 24 event, which benefits the Maine Children’s Cancer Program and is part of the Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby festivities, brought in around $15,000 from participant fundraising according to Tara Studley, the program’s Philanthropy Manager.

Studley called the dip “a great way for people to support local kids that are fighting cancer” and said that employees from event sponsor Shaw’s also raised about $31,000 for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, bringing this year’s total to more than $45,000.

Those funds will support various efforts by the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, including social work and research, Studley said. According to the program’s website, that is the pediatric oncology treatment center within the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, located at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Mike Turcotte of Wells, who serves on the children’s cancer program board of directors, said he has taken the plunge into Sebago Lake eight times now in support of the program.

“And every time I say I’m not going to do it again — but then I’m back here,” he said with a smile.

“Your friends and family are willing to see you torture yourself for a very short period of time,” he joked. He jumped this year as part of team “Shock and Thaw,” which included his wife Tara, who was participating in her seventh Shaw’s Polar Dip.

The event featured some flashy outfits including a penguin costume worn by Mark Shapp of Westbrook.

“It’s year number 13 for me,” Shapp said afterward. He said he has raised $56,000 for the event over that stretch, starting when he was a Shaw’s employee. Now a bus driver for Portland METRO, he said he brought in over $2,000 for the program this year.

“Oh, I love it,” added Shapp, who jumped back into the lake a second time to take laps in the eight foot by 30 foot hole that organizers had cut through the lake.

George Bartlett, a member of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club that hosts the fishing derby, said the three-man crew that cut the hole for the polar dip used a chainsaw with a three-foot blade to get through about 16 inches of ice.

The dip, which took place on Jordan Bay just off of the boat launch in Raymond, was supervised by members of the Raymond Fire and Rescue Department and divers from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Mark Shapp of Westbrook, dressed in a penguin suit, said he has raised more than $56,000 over thirteen years participating in the Shaw’s Polar Dip on Sebago Lake.

The “Dippin Dummies” team jumps into Sebago Lake as part of the 16th annual Shaw’s Polar Dip benefiting the Maine Children’s Cancer Program.