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The Madison Park Cooperative Preschool hosted the fourth annual Polar Plunge fundraiser to raise money for the school on Saturday, March 9.

Located at the Bath House by Madison Park Beach, Madison Park Cooperative is a play-based preschool program that has been around since the 1970s. As a nonprofit organization, the cooperative is required to fundraise at least 15 percent of its operating income.

“The cooperative has two full-time employees and a parent educator from Seattle Central College at the school,” said president Carley Houlahan-Jones. “We have nearly 100 families at the cooperative. Each of our five classes averages around 15 to 18 students per class.”

The preschool’s largest fundraiser, the Polar Plunge is an annual event where parents and teachers from the preschool volunteer to take a frigid dip in Lake Washington.

Volunteers raised money through Crowdster prior to the event.

“This year, we raised around $24,000 from the event,” said Julia Dennison, fundraising chair for the MPCP. “The fundraiser helps with classroom supplies and school expenses.”

Corporate sponsors and matching donations helped reach their target.

Parents arrived at the Bathhouse starting at 10 a.m. for some coffee and snacks. A raffle was set up to give away from prizes that included a Lululemon gift card and a stack of children’s books. Children and families mingled while the divers prepared themselves to get into the cold water. In preparation of the event, the kids made paper-plate masks and shakers to cheer on their loved ones.

“We make the fundraising a little competitive to get more parent involvement,” Dennison said. “We try to see which class can raise the most money. This year, a class raised nearly $6,000.”

Prior to the Polar Plunge, the MPCP’s major fundraiser was a silent auction. Although it was successful, the school found that the Polar Plunge allowed for more community involvement and interaction. This year, the school anticipated at least half of the families from the school to be involved in the event.

With a lifeguard on site, the divers lined up at the beach with families loudly cheering them on. Although it was sunny with clear skies, the temperature was still hovering around 35 degree during the time of the plunge. The divers ran into the water until they were fully submerged. Some parents ran in and out as fast as possible, while others braved the cold water. As they came out of the water, families rushed to provide towels and warmth.

The MPCP gives primary importance to building self-esteem and self-image of children. The curriculum is focused on art, music, stories and play. The MPCP also provides monthly parenting classes through the parent educator who is onsite during all class sessions.