Every year brave souls throughout Oregon — dressed in wild and zany outfits — make the decision to plunge into the icy waters of the Columbia River.

The Polar Plunge, while requiring a certain amount of insanity, is one of the fastest growing charity events in the Northwest, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics Oregon.

This year a pair of students from Inza R. Wood Middle School decided to join the ranks, forming their own team to help raise money for a cause dear to their hearts. Seventh-graders Kailey Galusha and Zoe Owen made the decision after a school field trip to the Youth Leadership Summit. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Students at Inza R. Wood Middle School film a video with Polar Plunge mascot Chill challenging Athey Creek Middle School and Rosemont Ridge Middle School to form their own teams.

The event was hosted by Special Olympics Oregon, and the various presentations centered on leadership especially hit home for Kailey.

“My brother, George, has Down syndrome and I’ve been a little bit involved with Special Olympics for a while,” she said. “He’s going to join Special Olympics when he’s old enough. There was a little presentation about Polar Plunge and we thought more about it and decided we really wanted to do it. About two weeks later we started our team.”

“The girls took to it right away and we just kind of decided it was something we wanted to get involved with,” said Wood Learning Specialist Kasie Hansen, who accompanied the pair on the field trip to the Youth Summit and is helping advise the two girls.

“It’s such a great cause. It’s been nothing but fun watching how hard they’ve worked.”SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Kailey Galusha, front left, and Zoe Owen, front right, have spent almost a month fundraising for the Polar Plunge and Special Olympics Oregon.

With help from Hansen and Zoe’s dad, Chris Owen, the two girls formed a fundraising strategy that started with recruiting as many team members as possible. The main requirement of Polar Plunge is that each member raise at least $50 in order to participate in the plunge, a number that the Inza Icicles hope each of their members surpasses

Kailey and Zoe first spoke at the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade lunches at Wood, convincing many of their friends to join the cause.

They also spent time after school and on the weekends going around to local businesses asking for donations.

They secured a $100 donation from Wilsonville Honda as well as a donated remote control airplane from HobbyTown USA to auction off on their Facebook page. They even conducted a canned food drive to raise money for Special Olympics Oregon.

“Our original goal was $500 but we’re already past that goal,” Kailey said. “We’re going to change it to $700 and maybe even higher if we reach that goal in time. Getting the donation from Wilsonville Honda was really exciting.”SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Zoe Owen, left, and Kailey Galusha pose with Chill, the Polar Plunge mascot.

While the actual plunge into the Columbia River is optional, both Kailey and Zoe said they plan on getting in the water when the time comes. There are multiple plunges across Oregon, with Portland’s taking place Feb. 27.

That leaves the girls with a little more than three weeks to meet their new goal. Right now they have nine team members who have raised at least the $50 minimum, and expect more to join.

Kailey and Zoe even managed to get the Polar Plunge mascot, Chill, to visit Wood’s seventh-grade lunch Jan. 27 to recruit more participants and film a video challenging Athey Creek Middle School and Rosemont Ridge Middle to form their own teams.

West Linn-Wilsonville Superintendent Bill Rhoades stopped by, as did Polar Plunge Community Outreach Specialist Alix Wasteney.

“I have to say this is the most organized and impressive middle school team I’ve ever seen participate in Polar Plunge,” Wasteney said.

Because Kailey and Zoe’s team, the Inza Icicles, is competing on behalf of Wood Middle School, half of their funds raised will go to the school’s Unified Soccer team to purchase jerseys and equipment.

The half of Inza Icicles’ funds going to Special Olympics Oregon, meanwhile, will go toward basketballs as well as the sponsoring of Special Olympics athletes for an entire year.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Two Wood students pose with Chill during seventh-grade lunch Jan. 27.

Kailey said she’s excited to continue fundraising, and may or may not practice the plunge aspect before Feb. 27 arrives.

“My grandma thought we should get in a tub of ice water and jump in it for practice, but I don’t really want to do that. I’m kind of nervous, but I think it will be fun once it’s over,” she said.

“We just want to get as many people to join our team as possible before we plunge,” Zoe added.

To donate, go to and search Inza Icicles.

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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