Freezing for a good cause; jump preregistration is this Sunday

HARVEST HILLS ANIMAL SHELTER Executive Director Joan McBurnie interviews a jumper during Freezing for a Reason in 2017. Preregistrations for the annual fundraiser will take place at the shelter on Sunday, from 12 to 3 p.m. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

If the roof needs fixing, it is best to jump right in. This year’s proceeds from the Freezing for a Reason plunge will go toward the roof replacement at the Harvest Hills Animal Shelter (HHAS).

Freezing for a Reason — which is held in conjunction with the Maine Lakes Winter Carnival — is the shelter’s biggest fundraiser.

“We don’t set a fundraising goal. We know this year where the funds are going to go: we need a new roof for the shelter,” HHAS Executive Director Joan McBurnie said. “When people know where the money is going to go, it makes them feel better,” she said. “A roof is kind of important.”

The annual Freezing for a Reason polar plunge into Highland Lake takes place Feb. 17. This Sunday, the shelter, located at 1389 Bridgton Rd. (Rte. 302) in Fryeburg, will hold pre-registration for the event. People wishing to participate in Freezing can drop into the shelter and register between noon and 3 p.m. According to McBurnie, it is helpful when people pre-register. It cuts down on the time spent registering people on jump day.

“Nobody will be turned away from registering on the day of the event,” she said. Also, since there is waiver form, registration must be done in person rather than online. Community members interested in participating can go online to print out their pledge sheets. With the pledge sheets, Freezing jumpers can raise money by soliciting friends and businesses.

Why would someone jump into ice cold water in the wintertime?

“You are helping out a local nonprofit,” McBurnie said. “Some people do it like a personal bucket list kind of thing,” she said.

Then, there is the goal of raising money for the roof of the shelter. “It is the original roof. Harvest Hills has been here for 30 years. It was incorporated 30 years ago. The building is 25 years old. We have a bunch of leaks,” she said. “We have buckets in attic. The animals aren’t being leaked on.

“As it was explained to me, when you have a large spanned roof, it can move with the weather. When you have a large roofline, the screw holes move. The screw holes have gone oval,” said McBurnie. “You can use a repair kit, which we have done. But, it only buys so much time,” she said. “We have done maintenance. But the shelter needs a new roof.”

Last weekend, the shelter held its first round of preregistration. Already, the excitement is in the air. “I know there is a friendly competition between the Raymond Paris Farmers’ Union and the Bridgton Paris Farmer’s Union,” McBurnie said.

Animal lovers who do not cherish the idea of jumping into cold water may want to support jumpers. Every year, McBurnie emcees Freezing and she talked about what it is like to be there. “We do see a lot of the same faces, but there is a mix of new ones — it’s great,” she said.

“We get excited when people get dressed up. You don’t have to. In the past, there has been a cowboy in a tuxedo, ladybugs with wings, and a group that wore rainbow tutus,” she said. “It makes the day a lot more fun.”

A few days before the jump, a hole is cut in the ice on Highland Lake. “Normally, the town crew cuts the ice. Last winter, we had a winter storm so the town crew was working. For 14 years, the town crew cut the hole. One year, it didn’t work out that way,” McBurnie said.

“I don’t know when the ice will be cut this year. We will have to see what it looks like as it gets closer,” she said. “It really all comes down to weather.”

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