Annual Polar Bear Affair returns to Vail Saturday |

Annual Polar Bear Affair returns to Vail Saturday

Emma Brown
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyGayle McDonald (center) poses with her husband Pat and their son, Brandon, at last year's Polar Bear Affair.

VAIL, Colorado ” In memory of Kimberly Linn McDonald, the annual Polar Bear Affair will take place Saturday at the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail at 5:30 p.m. The museum will be decorated as a snow-covered wonderland, fitting in with the current snowy conditions.

A Polar bear was Kimberly Linn McDonald’s favorite toy, which she took everywhere. The Polar Bear Affair is held each year in honor of Kimberly, a local girl who passed away eight years ago at the age of 15, due to complications from surgery.

“We can’t let this kid go; she is a child of Vail, lets honor her memory,” friends told Gayle McDonald, Kimberly’s mother, afer her tragic death. Gayle was inspired to set up the foundation, which is dedicated to supporting students and promoting patient safety advocacy.

“The community was amazing ” hundreds of people held us up. … They got our family through it,” Gayle said.

“We wanted to keep (Kimberly’s) memory alive and do something that would benefit children,” said Tama Levine, a longtime friend of Gayle, as well as a board member for the foundation.

The foundation provides scholarships to local students. Thus far, 48 people in Eagle County have benefited from foundation scholarships.

“Kimberly skied all over Vail Mountain, she was very active, dynamic and energetic,” Gayle said. She was on the nordic ski team, as well as the speech and debate team. The scholarships help students on those teams.

Pearl Burkham grew up in Vail and attended Battle Mountain High School. She’s currently studying marketing at Boston University. As a member of the speech and debate team in high school, Burkham received a $1,000 scholarship.

“It was great, it helped a lot,” Burkham said, mentioning that the scholarship helped her and other recipients, some of whom are her friends, purchase books and study materials.

Megan O’Rourke moved to Vail when she was 10 years old. She received a scholarship in the 8th grade when she attended the Charter Academy, and again when she graduated from high school. The funds have helped her pay tuition at the University of Michigan, where she’s studying comparative Spanish and English literature.

“It’s a great help, incredibly supportive, and (it’s) a great honor to represent Kimberley and be associated with her,” O’Rourke said. “I appreciate everything they have done for me. Gayle is very inspirational ” it’s incredible what she is doing in Kimberly’s memory, making the most of an incredibly tragic situation.”

There will be complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages, tours of the ski museum and a silent auction at the event. Polar bear toys will be for sale starting at $5, as well as silent auction items. Organizers request people RSVP for the event. Children are welcome. RSVP, or contribute by contacting Gayle McDonald via e-mail at or by calling 970-926-8202.

What: Annual Polar Bear Affair, in memory of Kimberly Linn McDonald

Where: Colorado Ski Museum, Vail

When: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

Cost: Free.

More information: Call 970-926-8202.

Support Local Journalism