MCA students raise funds for annual Polar Bear Plunge

Elizabeth Elder, Tabban Watkins, Jack Rodgers, Bob Campbell and Nathan Waydelis during their bake sale. Through their life skills class, led by Milford Central Academy teachers Ms. Elder and Mr. Rodgers, the students are raising proceeds for Special Olympics Delaware and the Polar Bear Plunge. Delaware State News/Brooke Schultz

MILFORD — For a week this month, there were quite a few polar bear paws throughout the building of Milford Central Academy.

The polar bear “paws” — comprising of a sugar cookie with chocolate chips (to make the paw print), topped with a white chocolate polar bear — were the creation of students looking to benefit the Polar Bear Plunge. The annual event raises proceeds for Special Olympics Delaware by sending willing participants into the chilly ocean in February.

“One of my big things that I believe in, as a principal, is that the community can’t be successful without us, and we can’t be successful without the community,” said Gary Zoll, principal for Milford Central Academy.

That idea is what drove the school to up their fundraising efforts this year, leading up to the Polar Bear Plunge.

“Mr. Zoll really wanted to make this year great,” said Elizabeth Elder, special education teacher. “He motivated us to really do something to make an impact. We thought it’d be a great opportunity.”

With that in mind, a group of 12 students in Ms. Elder’s life skills class created polar bear paws.

The students sold the cookies for $1 during the second week of January. In the first day of lunches, they had sold 105 of the 150 they baked. By the end of the sale, they had sold 733 cookies.

“The whole learning component in all different forms, that’s priceless,” she said. “We really wanted to do this so we could jump on board, get the momentum going in the school and get everybody excited about it and bring more attention to Special Olympics.”

Ms. Elder explained that their classroom is equipped with a kitchen, so the students have the means to bake the treats there.

“It’s really good for our students, to learn how to make different things,” Ms. Elder said, noting it gives them customer service skills as they sell the treats throughout the week. They also made a commercial to advertise the cookies.

As three eighth-graders sold the paws Thursday, they all noted they learned a lot from the process — from math, to reading, to baking.

“We had to make a bunch of cookies and paws,” noted Nathan Waydelis. “We had to make sure we have enough for each lunch to help Special Olympics. They do a lot and we had a lot of fun making them.”

Bob Campbell said that his favorite part of the process was “selling the cookies and collecting the money.”

Tabban Watkins agreed.

“We know support means helping people, the money helps them do a lot of stuff,” Nathan added.

Tabban Watkins and Bob Campbell, eighth grade students at Milford Central Academy, sell cookies to a student during lunch.

Ms. Elder said that the teachers have noticed that when they do activities like this, as with Call Nathan — an in-school food delivery program through the Life Skills classes — the students learn strong people and management skills.

“The students have the opportunity to get out and be social with teachers and peers by doing things like customer service, handling money,” she said. “What we’ve found, as they go into high school, they do have some real things they can put down as some of their skills.”

The “paws” are one of several initiatives throughout January MCA is doing to drum up support for Special Olympics Delaware and the Polar Bear Plunge.

The last week of January, for instance, students can buy a chance to throw a pie in the face of an administrator or teacher during pep rally in February, Mr. Zoll said.

Mr. Zoll noted that the district has been involved for several years in Special Olympics Delaware. In Mr. Zoll’s first year, the school participated in the plunge and hosted the Special Olympics basketball event.

“Just seeing those two events, and seeing how amazing they are, made me want to expand our programs and go all out in support of them,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s the whole school getting behind it.”

He said that the students take some joy in the idea of the MCA staff plunging into freezing waters, or getting a pie tossed in their face.

“They like it, but they know it’s going for a good cause,” he said. “This shows the kids that there’s good in the world, and that the world works.”