Students ‘Splash’ into Haiti Relief

Despite the snow still noticeably blanketing the grounds outside the River Center, dozens of students and staff (and two prominent administrators) jumped into the freezing St. Mary’s River for this year’s Polar Bear Splash. Proceeds from the event will go to providing general relief for the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)
Despite the snow still noticeably blanketing the grounds outside the River Center, dozens of students and staff (and two prominent administrators) jumped into the freezing St. Mary’s River for this year’s Polar Bear Splash. Proceeds from the event will go to providing general relief for the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

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About 40 students and staff and two College administrators jumped into the St. Mary’s River on Thursday, Feb. 18 by the River Center as part of the annual Polar Bear Splash. Proceeds gathered from the event supported relief for victims of Haiti’s earthquake.

The participants, many of whom were decked out with facepaint or St. Patrick’s day regalia, splashed around in the water for a minute before getting too cold. “Feels good, doesn’t it?” said Aaron French, one of the organizers, over loudspeaker. Then the shivering participants left the water to towel dry and drink hot cocoa.

This year’s Polar Bear Splash was the fourth installment of the annual event which occurs every February, arranged by the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC). The event, smaller than last year’s, went off without a hitch despite some worries about injury. Last year’s Polar Bear Splash incurred cuts, scrapes and trips to the hospital for four participants. Many had run into the water barefoot, stepping on shells and sharp rocks.

This year, SEAC set up a First Aid Station on the River Center patio and required everyone to wear shoes before they could participate. “I’m happy that the EMT was unnecessary,” said junior Tara Hutton, a member of SEAC.
Part of the safety concerns included making sure that people were safe when they ran into the water. “[Last year] we told people to wear shoes but weren’t requiring it; that obviously caused a lot of damage to people,” said French. As a result, “this year we had a shoe check.”

Participants made suggested donations of $3 to be part of the Polar Bear Splash, a change from previous years. Junior Johanna Galat, SEAC’s president, said that because the event this year had better publicity, SEAC raised a lot more this year than in previous years. Instead of its usual process of donating funds to environmental activism, the organization plans on donating proceeds to relief in Haiti through the organization Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future is normally involved in reforestation projects, including efforts in Haiti. This year, it will also branch out to provide general relief to victims of Haiti’s earthquake.

Two College administrators, Tom Botzman and Chip Jackson, ran into the water as well even though they arrived late to the event. “They went in as a secondary thing,” said French. “But they went in.”

SEAC organizes other events on campus in support of environmental action. Last year the organization arranged trips to Washington D.C. for the climate conference Power Shift and the protest against the Capitol Power Plant.

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