NewsPositively Hampton Roads


Virginia Beach school is top fundraiser for special athletes for the 10th year!

Posted at 6:08 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 18:08:04-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - For the past 10 years, the Polar Plunge, which benefits the Special Olympics, has a "Cool School Challenge" where schools compete to raise money - and one school stands out every year.

That's Plaza Middle School in Virginia Beach.

Amari Hoggard has plunged for the past two years.

The students at Plaza Middle School receive their People Taking Action award from News 3 anchor Beverly Kidd

“I love doing this because I know it isn’t just for fun; it's also going for a great cause in helping others that still want to do sports and have fun," she said.

“I like knowing that I’m doing something well for people who might not be as fortunate as everyone else,"  says Marcella Ortiz.

Plaza Middle stands out in other ways, too. It is an International Baccalaureate world school, which means it is committed to teaching students leadership skills and service to others as well as excellence in academics.

Mary Grace Mathias is proud of her school and the encouragement she gets from the staff.

“I feel like our teachers encourage us to be leaders, so I think it makes students more passionate about things like this," Mary Grace told us.

For others like Abby Johnson, taking the plunge is more personal.

“My family is really good friends with some people and their daughter has special needs, so she’s always someone I think of when I’m doing this.”

So far this year, they’ve raised $10,000 through a variety of activities: Selling donuts, a dodgeball tournament, bake sales and social media fundraisers.

And this is only a fraction of the students who’ve taken part in the fundraiser. Nearly 250 students are participating this year.

I asked Casey Barkan how he gets ready to jump into ice-cold water.

Related: People Taking Action: Local group with fuzzy faces take action by taking an icy dip in upcoming Polar Plunge! 

"I kind of hype myself up and get the most positive energy that I can from the DJ and the crowd," he said.

Billy Helps loves the camaraderie.

“It was pretty cold last year, but all the money we raised... the pain just goes away. You’re all yelling with your friends having a good time.”

Not only has Plaza Middle been the top fundraiser this year, they’ve been the top fundraiser in the school division for 10 years in a row.

In fact, these students are on par to raise $100,000 total since the school started taking part in the Cool School Challenge.

So, we decided to surprise the fundraising leadership team during one of their meetings.

“This is going to be fun - I know they’re going to be so excited. They have no idea! They don’t know that you’re coming," said principal Deborah Price.

We surprised them with a People Taking Action award along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.

Do you know someone who's worthy of a People Taking Action award? Click here to nominate them!