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Bend middle schoolers take Polar Plunge

BEND, Ore. - Once the High Desert Middle School Kindness Team--a class of seventh- and eighth-graders who focus on positive behaviors--decided to participate in the 2014 Polar Plunge, they quickly got to work recruiting other students and staff to join them in their goal of raising $1,000 to benefit Special Olympics Oregon--and, they hope, the school's Life Skills classroom.

But with a fundraising goal of $50 each, these middle schoolers are hoping others in the community will contribute to their cause.

"Our students have worked hard to raise money toward the Polar Plunge. To date they have raised $170 of their $1,000 goal," said Kindness Team co-advisor Mark Koopman.

"They're fired up to help Special Olympics Oregon athletes, but $50 can be a bit of a stretch for many families. We're hoping to get the community involved in the Polar Plunge, whether that's through donating to our team or coming to cheer on the students as they head into the Deschutes River on February 15th."

An added incentive for the HDMS students: if they meet their goal of raising at least $1,000, 20% of the amount raised will go directly to the HDMS Life Skills program, which teaches developmentally disabled students academic, social, behavioral and even vocational skills. But that 20% will only benefit HDMS Life Skills if every student participating in the Polar Plunge raises $50.

To that end, students have already logged many hours of volunteer time. During February's parent-teacher conferences, students served baked potatoes and chili to raise money, dressed up in a polar bear costume to raise awareness of the Polar Plunge, and staffed a table with information about Special Olympics Oregon and the 2014 Polar Plunge. The average HDMS Polar Plunge hopeful spent between four and five hours of their own time on these activities; some volunteered for the entire eight hours of conference time.

"We'll be making the Polar Plunge an annual tradition for the HDMS Kindness Team," explained Debra Sayre, Kindness Team co-advisor. "Our students have the enthusiasm and the work ethic to make this happen. They just need a little extra help from the community to meet their dollar-amount goals."

The 2014 Polar Plunge will take place on Saturday, February 15th, at Riverbend Park in Bend.  A costume contest starts at 10:30 a.m.; Polar Plunge opening ceremonies begin at 11:00 a.m. To learn more or to donate to the High Desert Diamondbacks Polar Plunge team, visit

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