Drenched in Donations: Sears School topples its Polar Plunge fundraising goal

Twenty degrees and not a sun in the sky: what a perfect day for a dip.

Students and staffers of Joseph Sears School in Kenilworth sure thought so on Wednesday, Feb. 23, during the school’s Polar Plunge fundraiser.

The Polar Plunge is a statewide program that supports Special Olympics Illinois. Organizations and individuals across Illinois are encouraged to develop a winter event in which participants get doused in cold water. Fundraising then occurs around the event.

Drenched in Donations: Sears School topples its Polar Plunge fundraising goal
Sears School Asst. Principal Martin Heffner reacts to splashing into the dunk talk on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

At Sears School, hundreds of students gathered to watch staff members, including Asst. Principal Martin Heffner, get dropped into a dunk tank. The students also participated in tug-of-war battles, in which the losing team was yanked into a pool of frigid water. For good measure, the winners were also splashed with a bucket of water.

Sears flew by its fundraising goal of $10,000, collecting more than $16,000 as of press time (Thursday, Feb. 24). One student, Evan Ballard, raised more than $5,000.

A Sears student reacts to the cold water during the fundraiser.

The event also kicked off a partnership between Sears School and Special Olympics Illinois in the nonprofit’s Unified Champion School program, which celebrates inclusive learning and social environments. To earn the recognition, a school must provide unified sports opportunities, inclusive youth leadership, whole school engagement and outreach opportunities, according to Special Olympics Illinois.

“We firmly believe in engaging with our local community and student body, but also broadening that scope to celebrate inclusion, acceptance and respect,” said Joe Guarino — the vice president of inclusion initiatives for the Joseph Sears School Parent Volunteer Association — in an email to The Record. “These ideas go hand-in-hand with our values of Respect, Responsibility, Honesty and Kindness.”

Students began diving into the cold pool even if they were not competing in the tug-of-war.

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Drenched in Donations: Sears School topples its Polar Plunge fundraising goal