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Fundraiser to heat veteran homes a chilly success

Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 5:36 PM EST
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ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - The Maine Veterans Project has received more than $6000 for their home heating fundraiser.

It’s thanks to a polar plunge by a local orthodontist.

I had barely set my camera up when Anthony Liberatore, better known as Dr. Tony, marched into the 40 degree waters of Branch Lake (which I hadn’t asked him to do) and prepared to be interviewed.

“Well...” He gestured broadly. ”It’s still swimming weather.”

Dr. Tony tells me that while he does love to swim, he’s braving the cold water to help out the Maine Veterans Project.

Usually Shawn Goodwin, founder of the Maine Veterans project, does a polar plunge for a fundraiser.

“Two years ago we started a partnership with RH Foster to match 1000 gallons of purchased home heating fuel.”

Thanksgiving morning Dr. Tony posted a video asking to join him this year. It featured him breaking through the ice to wade deep enough into the lake to go underwater. The video goes on for nearly five minutes.

“This is my audition tape. Take a second, click on over to Maine Veterans Project. Toss them a couple bucks. Help keep a veterans house warm this winter.”

Goodwin loved the video, and then he saw the money start coming in.

“He decided to put out an audition tape that turned out to be the entire fundraiser”

Dr. Tony shrugged. “Before I knew it $3,500 had been raised.”

The numbers climbed over $5,000, at which point his wife Joanne and their two daughters agreed to take the plunge as well. Even their son AJ got his feet wet.

“If there is something good happening you can almost bet that Dr. Tony and his family are involved” said Goodwin.

After coming out of the lake, Joanna addressed the camera. “If I’m cold for 30 seconds but vets are warm the whole winter then it’s totally worth it!”

“Normally we are well into February fundraising for this particular campaign, it’s very stressful.” said Goodwin. “The need is usually more abundant than the budget.”

With the fuel budget more than taken care of, Goodwin hopes to find as many vets as possible in need of help.

“We try our hardest to find the veterans in rural areas that don’t have access to the internet.”

Dr. Tony says he’d do it again.

“I’ll swim once a month for the rest of the year to keep veterans warm, whatever it takes to get them oil and firewood and to get the word out there so veterans know they’re not alone.”

Goodwin encourages people to reach out to veterans who may not see this story or have internet access to let them know how to get help.

You can contact the Maine Veterans Project by calling 415-553-0523, or by visiting their website.

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