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Student-organized dunk tank fundraiser makes a splash at Perham High School

Students Cailyn Greisen, Blaiz Schmidt, Benjamin Trites, and Ryleigh Mickelson hosted a dunk tank outside of Perham High School to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Dunk dank volunteer Kyle Knutson laughs and grips the bars of the tank as students chuck tennis balls in his direction to try and dunk him.
Dunk dank volunteer Kyle Knutson laughs and grips the bars of the tank as students chuck tennis balls in his direction to try and dunk him.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Perham students know how to have fun for a good cause.

As part of a high school class project on service learning, tenth graders Cailyn Greisen, Blaiz Schmidt, Benjamin Trites and Ryleigh Mickelson saw a chance to raise awareness and money for lung cancer research and treatments — by donating to the American Cancer Society — and jumped on the opportunity.

They raised funds by hosting a dunk tank, donated by Mark's Fleet Supply, outside of Perham High School on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 18. People interested in dunking volunteers could pay for tennis balls to throw at a target. Whenever the target was hit, the person sitting inside the tank was dropped into a pool of water below.

Several volunteers were dunked throughout the day, including Jen Bain, Zach Grewe, Robbie Cox, Kyle Knutson, Kassidy Steinback, Jacob Olsen and Jim Kennedy.

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Student Chas Melvin throws tennis balls to dunk Kyle Knutson into the water below in the tank on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 18.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Greisen, Schmidt, Trites, and Mickelson created the event as part of their service learning research project for English class, a course taught by Aron Velde.

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"Students research a global problem, and then they try to hone in on how it impacts us in the community," Velde explained. "Then they do something that locally helps in some way, shape or form."

He currently has a total of 23 different groups completing 23 different projects in his classes. Students apply the skills they learn in the class to people and places outside the school environment, such as by contacting community members and businesses for help. Projects are focused on topics like invasive species, equity, climate change and more.

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Kyle Knutson drops into the water of the dunk tank in front of Perham High School on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 18.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

The dunk tank group specifically researched lung cancer and the impacts that it has on different people. From there, the kids planned the event and contacted Mark's Fleet Supply about the dunk tank.

Velde emphasized that while he oversees the projects, the students complete everything on their own. He's there to provide guidelines, answer questions and then say "go." From there, students are able to learn community organizing and research skills independently.

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Student Avery Burr threw several tennis balls toward the dunk tank in order to plunge Kyle Knutson into cold water.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

"This was a really good success story," Velde said of the dunk tank event.

Students of all ages, from all of the district's schools, showed up, and people lined up and crowded around the dunk tank for a chance to hit the target or watch volunteers get dunked.

"It's really awesome to see it all come together," Cailyn Greisen said. "We didn't think we'd get as much of a turnout as we did."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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