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Camp CaPella ‘polar dip’ supporters set to take the plunge

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DEDHAM – Getting cold and wet is par for the course here as far as winters in Maine go – these things happen. However, this weekend will see some people doing it on purpose … and for a good cause.

More than 75 brave, benevolent souls are set to dive into the icy waters of Phillips Lake in Dedham on Saturday, February 26, in support of Camp CaPella, a summer camp that provides recreational and educational opportunities for people with disabilities. The 16th annual polar dip fundraiser has the potential to become Camp CaPella’s most successful fundraiser yet, according to executive director Melanie Dresser.

Proceeds raised from pledges gathered by polar dip participants will allow children and adults with disabilities to enjoy an exciting summer camp experience regardless of their ability to pay.

“The polar dip raised more than $30,000 last year, doubling our goal set two years earlier,” Dresser said, adding that approximately $25,000 had been raised so far for this year’s polar dip.

Camp CaPella offers weekly summer camp sessions from late June to mid-August. Each session varies by age only. Campers have the option of attending either a day camp or overnight camp format.

According to Dresser, Camp CaPella takes in approximately $50,000 annually in tuition fees but it costs nearly $300,000 to operate the camp annually. The annual polar dip event is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser.

Polar dip organizers have prepared multiple participation levels for Saturday’s event, according to Dresser.

Supporters may choose to become a “live in-person” jumper, a supporter that will select a timeframe to make the leap into the frigid water this Saturday. 75 in-person jumpers had been confirmed as of last week.

People selecting the “virtual jumper” category have the option of getting creative in the days leading up to the event. Participants are asked to record a video showing them doing something appropriate relating to icy water. Soaking in a kid’s pool full of ice cubes, rolling in the snow in your swimsuit or popping a balloon of ice water over your head are several possibilities referenced on Camp CaPella’s website. Virtual jumpers are asked to share their videos with Camp CaPella by tagging the organization on social media. Fourteen employees of Darling’s Auto Group will be among the virtual jumpers this year.

The “jittery jumper” option is for supporters willing to pay not to jump into frosty Phillips Lake. For a small registration fee, participants can remain warm and dry with the knowledge that they are helping people with disabilities enjoy the camping experience at Camp CaPella.

Camp Capella did not open in 2020 due to the pandemic but they offered a virtual version of the camp experience for more than 100 campers. More than 150 campers returned to Camp CaPella in 2021, according to Dresser.

“We’re hoping to open fully this year due to the CDC backing off on regulations,” Dresser said. “That means we would have 250 to 300 campers this season along with our rentals.”

At times when Camp CaPella isn’t operating a traditional summer camp program, the facility is available for rent by other community agencies and programs that provide services for people with disabilities.

When campers return to Camp Capella this year, they will see a newly renovated facility, according to Dresser.

“We’re remodeling right now so it will be a whole new camp and kitchen for them,” she said. “The camp was very outdated and hadn’t been remodeled for a very long time. There’s new epoxy flooring throughout the camp which should last 50 years. It’s very expensive but New England Epoxy did an incredible job and they donated $10,000 worth of time and materials for our campers.”

Dresser said Camp CaPella’s kitchen has doubled in size with new cabinets and new appliances donated by a supporter who wishes to remain anonymous.

Camp CaPella’s polar dip originated with longtime supporter Joseph Dowling of Machiasport. Dowling is in charge of carving the 8x10 rectangular hole in the ice for the live in-person jumpers.

According to Dresser, the ice in front of the camp is currently two feet thick.

Dowling says he’ll be on site with his chainsaw and a 36-inch chainsaw bar early on Saturday morning, February 26. He tells The Maine Edge that he looks forward to taking the plunge himself each year.

Dowling started the polar dip at Camp Sunshine at Sebago Lake in Casco in 2006 before bringing it to Camp CaPella the following year.

Lucerne Inn is the designated parking area for all polar dip participants. Cyr Bus Lines will transport jumpers to and from Camp CaPella. Due to the high number of participants this year, several departure times are scheduled.

Sand Dollar Spa will provide a hot tub on site for jumpers to warm up after their polar dip with wiring courtesy of Hampden Electric.

Food will be provided by Tri-City Pizza and Angelo’s Pizza, both of Bangor.

Melanie Dresser says that since she was appointed executive director for Camp CaPella in May of last year, her position is the most gratifying she’s ever experienced.

“I’ve never had a job as personally rewarding as this one,” Dresser said. “I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something I’m not willing to do myself, so I’ll be one of the jumpers too. When you work with these kids for even one day you realize how important Camp CaPella is to them. It’s what they live for all year long.”

(More information on Camp CaPella’s polar dip, along with the registration form and pledge sheet, can be found at

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 February 2022 08:18


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