Polar Bear Affair all about achievers | VailDaily.com

Polar Bear Affair all about achievers

Photos and story by Sarah Dixon Special to the Daily

When’s the last time you partied with polar bears? For some locals, it was Nov. 22.

The second annual Polar Bear Affair, the primary fund-raiser for the Kimberly Linn McDonald Foundation, raised money through a silent auction, donations, and, of course, the purchase of countless fluffy – stuffed, of course – white companions.

“She was such a gifted, beautiful, significant child,” Jessica Dalton, a longtime McDonald family friend, said of Kimberly. “She really was.”

The foundation, established after Kimberly’s tragic death in 2000, has since sought to promote the “academic, cultural and athletic endeavors” of local youth. Through three scholarships promoting, respectively, Nordic skiing, the arts, and a Charter Academy Best Girl Valedictorian, the foundation is able to ensure that individuals who share goals and spirit with Kimberly can achieve a college education.

To follow in the footsteps of a bilingual 15-year old who mentored local youth, volunteered regularly, traveled to Italy as Vail’s Rotary Club representative and in her free time skied, danced, and sang, is no easy task. However, the Kimberly Linn McDonald foundation is trying to make such a feat possible for several local students.

“Kimberly was a champion of people,” said her mother, Gayle McDonald. “Anything she could do to help, she did.”

It is in this spirit that each of the three scholarships was decided upon.

Kimberly’s love of and talent for Nordic skiing made the first, athletic interpretation an easy pick.

“She was one of the best Nordic skiers,” said Cathryn Benysh, Battle Mountain High School’s head Nordic ski coach. “Drama and skiing were her passion.”

Many others reflected fondly on Kimberly’s “dramatic and outgoing, but not loud” personality.

“One of my fondest memories of Kimberly is riding in the car with her singing Shania Twain at the top of our lungs,” said Kimberly’s aunt, Deb McDonald, who she nannied for the summer before she passed away. “She was so alive, so awake.”

Her love for music and drama, combined with her many accolades as a public speaker, lead the Kimberly Linn McDonald Foundation to choose a Speech, Debate and Theater scholarship as the second of three offered.

For the third scholarship, the family joined forces with the Charter Academy to honor one very special young woman each year.

“We feel that the Charter Academy really helped Kimberly direct her spirit,” Gayle said. “When they began recognizing a Best Girl Valedictorian in Kimberly’s name, we were honored, and choose to send their nominee a donation toward her college experience.”

Last year’s event raised more than $10,000 for the foundation, which went toward scholarships for three outstanding local youths. Last year’s recipients include Megan O’Rourke, Maria Borg and Kelley Baskins.

So now that the basis of the event is clear, many are left asking, “what about the bear?’

“Kimberly had a stuffed polar bear that I gave her,” said Kimberly’s father, Pat McDonald. “She took it everywhere.

“She even took it to all her Nordic meets in high school,” Gayle elaborated. “She used it as a pillow. So many people who knew her, knew her with that polar bear.”

And now they can remember her by the legacy she left, as well as her passions, which will live on through the scholarships established in her name.

And no one will forget the bear.

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