ORONO, Maine — With their fists raised, 12 brothers from the University of Maine chapter of fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon dressed as pirates let out a whoop, ran toward an inflated kiddie pool on the UMaine campus mall and jumped in.
A few seconds later, the students’ pirate bravado dissipated somewhat and the men were out of water, scampering toward the lobby of nearby Fogler Library.
Shivering and dripping with water, the Sig Ep brothers toweled off from their efforts in the fourth annual Polar Bear Dip.“Getting out is the worst, when the wind hits you and you’re walking on snow,” said Sig Ep vice president of communications Robert Collins. “It’s really more of a shock [when the cold hits]. Your mind kind of goes blank.”
It was all for a good cause, as 20 Greek organizations took a dip in the cold water to raise money for the Penobscot Nation Boys and Girls Club on Indian Island.
The event is coordinated by UMaine’s Pan Hellenic and Interfraternity councils.
The Polar Bear Dip was part of the Greek societies’ Winter Carnival, which ended this weekend. Fraternity Beta Theta Pi held its 17th annual Sleep-Out with proceeds going to Rape Response Services of Bangor.
Several other non-Winter Carnival-related fundraising events Saturday on campus included appeals for donations for Haiti earthquake relief during the International Dance Festival, and an earthquake relief raffle during the University of Maine men’s hockey game against UMass Lowell.
Stacey Gomm, a UMaine student who coordinated the Polar Bear Dip, said $1,115 was raised this year, which is less than previous years. The lower dollar amount can be attributed to the economy, she said.
Gomm added, however, participation among Greek organizations was up the whole week of Winter Carnival.
“It was a great turnout,” said Gomm, who is the vice president of programming for UMaine’s Pan Hellenic Council and a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
Penobscot Boys and Girls Club director Carla Knapp said the Polar Bear Dip would provide a match for a grant from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank of up to $1,000.
“This provides a kids’ kitchen so kids can have healthy snacks and a meal during vacations,” said the former Carla Fearon, who now goes by her married name. “This program wouldn’t be a success without the fundraising the Greek societies do. We appreciate it.”
That was the motivation for Sig Ep’s involvement in Saturday’s dip.
“It’s Winter Carnival, so we want to participate to keep up Greek relations,” said Collins. “And it’s a philanthropy so it’s always good raising money for a cause.”
The Sig Ep brothers were grateful that temperatures were in the upper 30s — they knew a February day could have been a lot worse.
“It’s actually not that cold today, which I’m not too sad about,” Collins said.