Polar Splash raises funds for canine rescue organization


Hunter Mallette

Justice for Dogs’ Mascot

How cold was it? Cold. Very cold. However, subzero temperatures at Lake Elmore on Feb. 13 did not deter over 100 people gathering for the eighth annual Polar Splash to raise money for this year’s non-profit of choice: Justice for Dogs.

Amy Touchette, a Wolcott local and the founder of Justice for Dogs, was clad in winter layers under the welcome tent that had a donation jar and warm drinks.

“We are so lucky to have been picked by the Morrisville Rotary Club this year, and since the last time I checked we have raised over ten-thousand dollars,” she said.

The canine rescue organization was founded in 2007, and, according to Touchette, has many local partnerships including the Stowe Veterinary Clinic and Claire’s Dog Camp.

Justice for Dogs takes in stray cats and dogs as well as animals that are surrendered by their owners. “We spay and neuter them and get them ready for adoption,” said Touchette.

The Polar Splash has over 15 sponsors including Union Bank, Johnson Farm and Garden, and Deb’s Place. Different levels of sponsorship require larger donations, but each company gets mentioned on the radio, will get their logo on various merchandise, and will receive mention on social media.

Many people who are jumping have adopted pets from the clinic, including Mike Baker, a Hardwick native and first-time jumper.

“I am jumping for Justice for Dogs because I have adopted two dogs from them and want to give back to the organization,” said Baker.

JSC’s SERVE office has assembled a team of jumpers each year, but this year’s subzero temperatures hampered those efforts. Sarah Golden, JSC’s Community Service Director, had planned on jumping for the non-profit this year, but due to the severe wind chill warning posted for Northern Vermont, as well as the negative temperature, the college believed it was unsafe.

“My motivation was a combination of foolishness, unnecessary obstinance, and role-modeling,” Golden said. “I figured it would be a little hypocritical of me to try and bait people into flinging themselves into a frozen lake in subzero temperatures if all I was going to do was stand on the side and watch.”

Kevin Maxsfield works for the Johnson Water Rescue team and goes every year to make sure jumpers are safe, and are being responsible. “I have been doing water rescue for the town of Johnson for almost nineteen years,” said Maxsfield.

Maxsfield and partner David Gaudette wear wetsuits and stay in the water until all have jumped.
“We stay in the water for the full duration and assist jumpers to get to the ladder,” said Gaudette. “Usually it only takes fifteen to twenty minutes for all fifty-five or so jumpers. It is a very quick process and we have never had any injuries or complications…knock on wood.”

Once ready to begin, runners or teams are announced and they run down the hill in goofy outfits and one-by-one jump in. Towels, provided by the non-profit await them when they get out. ‘Mutt-ley Crue’ and ‘Hissy Fits’ are just two team names.

“It was a brutally cold day out and I’m glad I didn’t know the temperature of the water,” said Baker. “The water was numbing but you have all of this adrenaline and it is a quick process. I am just so glad to help and I would do it again.”

Although jumping into a frozen lake in below-zero weather sounds like a dubious enterprise, many locals were willing to do just that to make a dog’s life a bit better.