HIGHLAND PARK – Highland Park High School’s Rotary Interact Club plunged into Fox Lake and raised more than $20,000 for Special Olympics Illinois, which included about $3,500 in memory of a former student.
Rohan Malempati was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder called Omenn Syndrome. “Rohan was the community-building chairperson for our Rotary Interact Club,” said co-sponsor Melissa Zientara. “Rohan lived and breathed Rotary. … Many of his family members shared that Rotary changed Rohan’s life, and for the first time, he felt accepted and a part of something.”
Zientara said Rohan would have died soon after birth without the bone marrow transplant that he received from his uncle. He was in and out of hospitals during the first few years of his life. “His health was often in decline, especially his lungs/breathing; yet he never complained.”
Sadly, Rohan passed away on February 19, 2014 at age 17 due to complications from a seizure. “Rohan was one of the most thoughtful and hilarious kids that you would ever meet,” she said.
The HPHS Rotary Interact Club was awarded the “Cool School Challenge” trophy for raising the most money at the event.
Prior to the plunge, the students bundled up in minion attire to promote their theme, “HPHS Presents: Minions on Ice.”
About 65 HPHS students participated in the Polar Plunge along with Zientara and her Rotary Interact Club Co-Sponsor Matthew Nieto. “After the plunge everyone changed quickly and then headed to the awards ceremony,” she said. “It usually takes a few hours to get warm.”
Zientara added, “Rohan would’ve loved this. He made Rotary Interact what it is today.”
The HPHS Rotary Interact Club launched at HPHS in 2011, with the help of the Rotary Club of Highland Park/Highwood. According to the HPHS Rotary Interact website, the club organizes, plans and completes at least one service project every month.
Below is a list of HPHS Rotary Interact community service projects for the 2016-17 school year:
- Long Grove Rotary Walk (for PADS)
- Bernie’s Books Volunteer Day
- Highwood Pumpkin Fest
- Special Olympics Floor Hockey Tournament at HPHS
- Military Troop Care Package Drive
- HPHS Posada
- Charity Drive Fundraiser
- Random Acts of Kindness Day
- Special Olympics Polar Plunge
- “Meals from the Heart” at Ronald McDonald House (Lurie Children’s Hospital)
- Project Linus Blankets
- Spring Fundraising Walk
- Pen Pal Program (between our club and an orphanage/school in one of our sister cities)
- Clearbrook Center Jelly Belly Days
- Other Miscellaneous Volunteer/Service Projects
For more information about the HPHS Rotary Interact Club visit: dist113.org.