LINCOLNVILLE BEACH — Thirty-four swimmers, ranging in age from five to 82, stripped off towels, blankets, and bathrobes in order to brave shoreline air temperatures in the low 30s.
Their feet-numbing, bikini-clad race into the Atlantic not only defied expectations of the winter norm, it also raised funds for Derek O'Brien, wheel-chair bound from a swimming accident in July 2005.
Annual Dip 4 Derek Polar Bear Challenge manager Peter Roper initiated the fundraising when he heard of O'Brien's accident.
Roper said through wet skin and chattering teeth: “At the time, everyone in Camden was raising money. I was working for MBNA, that was sold to Bank of America. At MBNA, we used to raise funds for the foundation, for education. When that went away, I said ‘hey, I’ll donate to Derek.’ This has continued every year.”
This is the ninth year since Derek’s accident in July of 2005.
Roper doesn’t know, yet, how much has been raised this year; in the past, the yearly contribution has ranged from $2,500 to more than $4,000.
Derek O'Brien returned to UMaine at Orono, finishing his new media degree two years ago. For the past four months he has been working as a graphic designer for CTN television station in Portland.