The students of Washington County Community College bring forward the importance of this fundraising event each year. The emotional stories of families who use the Ronald McDonald House are never ending. The energy and electricity in the air as the time moved closer and closer to noon was encompassing to the entire crowed, swimmers and spectators alike.
Special thanks go to many groups for making this happen. I have to say first and foremost thank you to the Passamaquoddy Nation for having not one but two ambulances available… just in case. My mind was at ease knowing if the shock of this brought me down I at least had the opportunity to survive. The US Coast Guard, water rescue and the National Guard all gave support for those of us preparing to head into the water.
I could feel the adrenaline build in my system as Wes Hedlund, my wife and I drove towards Passamaquoddy Bay. Every once and a while I would catch a view of the bay. I found myself thinking, “What am I doing? Can I really do this?” There were draggers in the bay, a large cargo tanker, sea birds galore and floating ice…. More and more I thought, “What is wrong with me?” Oh yes, did I mention FLOATING ICE? The reality of what was about to happen to my body was without question evident in the beautiful surroundings as we made way to the site of the swim.
We were about an hour before dip time. I sat in the car composing my thoughts. Wes and Carolyn went out to take pictures and get a feeling of the crowd. They returned, and I was mentally ready to get out and go for a swim. There were at least 300 spectators, and about 150 people in swim wear. As we walked around, people were being encouraged by their friends and others. “You can do it; no problem, just run in and come out.” No problem, I thought to myself. You are dressed in a heavy coat, hat, gloves, wind pants and boots. No problem? Try what I have on - sneakers, and swim trunks. What is wrong with my mind!
The organizers were on the loud speaker asking swimmers to line up at the boat launch ramp. We all did as instructed. The voices were rising as the bone chilling water was only feet from our bodies. The countdown began… Ten, Nine…. Two, and One… the crowd cheered as we all entered the frigid water. My mind was rushing with thoughts of this is so cold… so cold…. so cold but I knew I could make the plunge! A couple of seconds and I was up to me knees in ice water. I dove forward, my entire body engulfed in the cold of the Atlantic Ocean.
What a feeling - not the cold, but knowing that me and everyone there, those who were participating, those who gave of their time, and those who gave money made a difference for families with life threatening illness. The group disbanded quickly and quietly. By 12:20 the park was empty, back to the condition it was in only hours before. When I looked out to where we had entered the water I smiled and felt warm.
Bill Dorrity is a Master Maine Guide.