As Union College President David Harris prepared to jump onto a waterslide mat that had been set up on the fresh snow right in front of the college’s Reamer Campus Center on Sunday, he was preparing to soon be covered in ice-cold water.
“It was a lot warmer when I agreed to do this,” he joked prior to making his jump in the freezing cold on Sunday.
Harris, and dozens of students were getting ready to participate in the Dutchmen Dip event, an annual fundraising effort for Union College community members who have been afflicted by cancer.
This was Harris’ first Dutchmen Dip, and he had pledged that he would participate if the Union College Chapter of Colleges Against Cancer secured 500 donors for the event.
The Dutchmen Dip was started seven years ago to help raise money for Schenectady resident Kristen Shinebarger, whose mother, Shelly, works at the college as a director of student support services. Shinebarger was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and had lost her leg because of the disease.
Kristen died at 16 years old in December.
This year, the students were told that if they could secure $20,000 to go toward the Dutchmen Dip Shinebarger Memorial Scholarship, another $20,000 would be donated by Tom Coleman, a Union alumni of 1988.
They reached that goal at 11:50 a.m. on Sunday, mere minutes before the event was slated to start at noon.
For Harris, the Dutchmen Dip was representative of what was best about Union, which is the ability of students, faculty and staff alike to band together to help one of their own.
Though he planned on immediately grabbing a towel and finding a place to warm up after his slide, he was eager to be a part of the community effort to help.
“It’s for such a great cause. How could you say no?” he said.
While Shelly Shinebarger was unable to attend the event, Sophie Rosen, a senior and co-president of the Union Chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, said in her opening address to participants that Shinebarger had been bolstered by all of the support she and her daughter had received from the Union College community.
Participants arrived to the event boasting solidarity in team colors. The men’s lacrosse team marched across campus together and arrived just before noon to form a line in front of the water slide wearing their helmets and team t-shirts with shorts. Most of them were not wearing shoes.
Rosen, a senior, watched as participants egged each other on into the waterslide and cheered as they dove headfirst down the narrow sheet and swiftly jumped off in search of a towel and a warm place to dry off. In her third year of working on the fundraising event, securing the $40,000 for the scholarship was an achievement that everyone in the group had been surprised to reach.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” she said. “None of us thought that was going to happen.”
Rosen’s last year of coordinating the event was particularly special for her due to her relationship with Kristen, whom she’d met several times.
Though many participants at the Dutchmen Dip in Sunday never had the chance to personally meet Kristen, Rosen said the liveliness of the event was a good representation of who she was.
“She was just an incredible person,” Rosen said of Kristen.
Rosen estimated that around 200 people had signed up to participate online. More were showing up throughout the day who hadn’t signed up in advance.
With the matching $20,000 added on to the original amount of money raised, Rosen knows that the scholarship fund has achieved a longevity that will keep it in place for years to come, and she is satisfied with her efforts over the last three years.
“I feel like I left my lasting impact at Union,”she said.