A polar bear affair | VailDaily.com

A polar bear affair

Lyndsay Jo Hackman
Preston Utley/Vail DailyPiper Scherr, 19 months, cuddles up to an oversized stuffed polar bear during the fourth annual Polar Bear Affair, a fundraiser for the KLM Scholarship Foundation, which gives scholarships to students.

VAIL – At age 15, Vail resident Kimberly Linn McDonald was filling out her college applications and helping her older brother with his. She was far ahead of her fellow students from the start. In her first year of school, McDonald took the Eagle County School District’s IQ test and placed in the “highly gifted and talented” category. She tutored Spanish-speaking students in second grade and became almost fluent in the language, and later skipped from third to fifth grade. She then attended the Eagle Valley Charter Academy and Battle Mountain High School.She also danced, was an avid Nordic skier, a member of speech and debate team, and volunteered in the community, her mother Gayle Grider said.But her life ended early as a result of complications after surgery in Vail on Nov. 18, 2000.In her memory, the McDonald family set up the KLM Scholarship Foundation in 2001 with the goal of helping kids further their education, become involved in the performing arts and stay involved in sports like skiing.

The family’s annual fundraiser, the Polar Bear Affair, is named after the giant polar bear her father Pat McDonald gave her when she was about 3 years old. “It was just a fluffy present she latched onto and she took it everywhere,” McDonald said.November is a difficult time of year for the McDonald family, but the foundation is a way to commemorate McDonald’s life, Grider said. “It helps turn such an awful thing into a celebration and something for the community,” Grider said.This year’s event was held at the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail on Nov. 19 and about 200 friends, family and others attended. Kids sold stuffed polar bears with ribbons tied around their necks, and other items were sold by silent auctions. All of the proceeds went to the foundation.With the money from the fundraiser, scholarships will be given out in March to high school and college students, and a medical student studying obstetrics and gynecology.

“We look at the student’s volunteer activities and how they help with the community,” said Tama Levine, a foundation founder and board member.Scholarship winners are those who, like Kimberly McDonald, embrace the Colorado lifestyle, family, community and volunteer work, said Grider. The OB/GYN scholarship goes to a medical student, nominated by his or her professors, who strongly encourages patient safety advocacy.”In giving this particular scholarship, we are endorsing that future doctors listen to their patients and go through all of the standard patient safety steps to ensure they have diagnosed all possible problems,” Grider said. It recognizes that OB/GYN student as being the most likely to be a caring physician or surgeon and rewards his or her future connection of doctor and patient relationship,” she said. The Eagle Valley Charter Academy also gives an award in McDonald’s memory that funded by the KLM Foundation.

Since its inception, the KLM Foundation has given more than $30,000 to students to help them further their education. The foundation was nominated this year for the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau Non-Profit of the Year Award for 2005 and has plans to make the Polar Bear Affair even bigger in conjunction with National Patient Safety Awareness Week in March.Vail, Colorado

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