Kaden Wasson, of Chisago City, has enjoyed some great birthday celebrations through his 11 years.
Having a birthday in February has meant that many of his special party activities with friends have been focused indoors, including at bowling centers, laser tag arenas and heated swimming pools.
Wanting to plan for his recent birthday on Feb. 12, Kaden’s mother Lisa Wasson asked her son in late January about what or how he might want to celebrate this year.
Thinking back to past birthday fun and to recent gifts such as a dartboard and a PlayStation game console for Christmas and other occasions, Kaden could not think of new ideas or requests for his birthday.
In response, Lisa asked her son if he would like to jump in the annual Forest Lake Winter Plunge on Feb. 25.
“His eyes lit up. He was all for it,” Lisa recalled.
Lisa was already planning to take the Forest Lake plunge this year, with a team of her colleagues from MidWestOne Bank in Forest Lake raising funds for Community Helping Hand. This was Lisa’s first year in the Forest Lake event, although she had made a similar icy jump two years ago at the annual Polar Plunge in Breezy Point, where all funds go to support Special Olympics. She jumped then on a dare or challenge of a sort, as she was joining a friend who focused a bachelorette’s party weekend around that Polar Plunge, but the bride-to-be also had a niece entered in Special Olympics.
After Lisa had known that her Forest Lake plunge would be supporting Community Helping Hand, which operates a food shelf and related services in Forest Lake, she learned soon that her son turning 11 had chosen a similar cause for his plunge.
Kaden is in the fifth grade at Chisago City’s Lakeside School, where Brandi Colberg, an active community volunteer, has promoted a Birthday Box program on behalf of the Family Pathways food shelf serving that area.
When an adult from a qualifying household makes a visit for food aid from Family Pathways in Chisago City, he or she may also receive a Birthday Box package to prepare a party for any child at home with an upcoming birthday.
A Birthday Box typically includes cake mix, frosting, sprinkles, candles, cupcake or muffin pan liners, birthday plates and napkins, balloons and a small gift that could include crayons, markers, coloring books, other books or games.
The package, at a total cost around $12, allows a parent or other adult to honor or celebrate a child’s birthday modestly at a time when they are also struggling to meet the household’s food needs.
Kaden discussed the Birthday Box program with his mother, and he quickly chose to dedicate his birthday and first Winter Plunge toward bringing a little sunshine into younger children’s lives by seeking funds for more Birthday Boxes.
Lisa recognized some typical initiative from her son.
“I wasn’t surprised” at his eagerness for the plunge, she said. “Kaden is always trying to do a good deed. He’ll be the first one to hold open a door for people, and he doesn’t have a problem with letting others go first for something.”
Kaden was among the youngest jumpers in this year’s Winter Plunge, as rules for the event sponsored by the Forest Lake Rotary Club require participants to be age 10 or older.
It surprised Kaden that five of his friends were easily so willing to join in his birthday celebration by also taking the Winter Plunge. Their jumping costumes included rainbow wigs, and their entrance or walk-up music to the ice-cold pool of water featured “Afro Circus,” made popular in the “Madagascar 3” film. Warm temperatures well above freezing in the week leading up to the Winter Plunge forced coordinators to move the event off of Forest Lake’s thinning ice and into a cold pool.
Kaden said he wouldn’t have chosen to celebrate his birthday in any other way.
“Being with my friends, all having to jump in the water, I don’t think any of them had ever done it,” he said.
The Winter Plunge attracted nearly 450 jumpers on a total of 39 teams that raised funds for a variety of causes.
Each team shares part of its proceeds with the sponsoring Rotary Club for covering event costs and supporting other Rotary projects.
Up through the first $1,000 that any team raises for the Winter Plunge, half of the funding goes to the Rotary and half stays with the team for its personal cause.
A team is rewarded for raising more than $1,000, however, because if a team breaks that barrier, then 70 percent of its funding (including $700 from the first $1,000) will go to the team’s cause.
Though the plunge is over, there is some limited time for this year’s participants to keep raising funds for their causes through their event pages online.
As of March 6, Kaden and his friends had raised about $800 in pledges for the Winter Plunge. For more information on supporting the Family Pathways Birthday Box program through the Kaden’s Krazy 11th Birthday Party team, visit www.firstgiving.com/team/341627.