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For Athletes, Special Olympics Oregon is Like Family, and Family is Everything

Jordan Lindahl brings the community together wherever he goes

Jordan Lindahl is one busy guy.

He is an active volunteer at Otto Peterson Elementary in Scappoose, helping at recesses and back to school nights, and pitching in with outdoor school. He’s a volunteer at The Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island, helping guide people through corn mazes (called “The Maize”) which they have become famous for, as a ‘corn cop’, something he looks forward to every fall.

He’s on a celebrated team of dragon boat racers, a Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association annual series of practices and events culminating in a racing event during Portland Rose Festival that brings together 60 teams from all over the world to compete.

And he is this year’s spokesperson for Special Olympics Oregon’s annual Polar Plunge series, a critical fundraiser for the non-profit organization that spans counties and communities, from Southern Oregon to Bend, from Eugene to Corvallis, from Salem to Portland, where attendees plunge (for some, one time, for others, every hour for 24 hours) into icy water to raise funds for Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR).

And in what little spare time that all leaves him, he enjoys competing in SOOR’s many sporting competitions, from bowling to bocce ball to basketball. What is his favorite sport? “I’ve got to go with bocce ball,” said Jordan, “It is so much fun. I like to meet new athletes and love being on the (Unified Champions Schools) team.” His partner, Antonio Viereck, and he came in first place at Hillsboro stadium, “my favorite place to compete,” he said, “I’ve been involved (in SOOR) for as long as I can remember,” continued Jordan, “about 17 years.”

“Jordan is really fearless,” said his dad, Dan Lindahl, “during high school he played football even though he was smaller than all the other guys. That didn’t deter him from wanting to participate and help the team in any way he could, even if it was mostly just cheering on his Scappoose High School teammates.” 

Joe Harvey, Senior Director, Program and Volunteer Services for SOOR was a first point of contact for Jordan. “Joe got me involved,” Jordan said, and he has since participated in Polar Plunge for the past dozen years. When he started, he plunged solo. Now? He has a team, “Team Hollywood,” that has become one of the biggest fundraising teams (finishing 4th in fundraising in the 2022 series) and amongst the highest individual contributors of donor funds related to the event, raising an estimated $7,300 recently and $40,000 over time. His team also competes to win the coveted costume contest associated with Polar Plunge. “We did ‘Under the Sea’ last year for costumes,” Jordan said, “we have a great idea for this year,” he said with a smile, holding back further detail.

Said Harvey, “Jordan seems to exhibit infectious joy in all he does, from Polar Plunging to Dragon Boat racing. He is an extremely passionate athlete who cares so much for the Special Olympics Oregon community and his peers. Jordan is a fantastic spokesperson for Polar Plunge as he is a tried-and-true Polar Plunge master who, every year, not only jumps into the freezing cold water, but also recruits a large team of friends and family that always raise a ton of money.  Team Hollywood is ALWAYS one of the top fundraising teams in the state and it’s all because of Jordan.”

Jordan equally loves the Dragon Boat events. “It’s a lot of practice,” said Jordan, “it’s so much fun to do. I love to get new teammates on the team. My favorite part is catching the flag, which we practice doing, and seeing all the different teams. I’m always trying to recruit new athletes and volunteers.” His team is the Wasabi Special Dragons, operated under the Wasabi Paddling Club.  By participating in events such as the dragon boat races, Jordan is contributing to a cherished and important fabric in our community.

“The Rose Festival is so grateful for the incredible cultural vibrancy that the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association brings to the Rose Festival each year. Since 1989, magnificent dragon boats have been racing on the Willamette bringing a taste of Taiwanese culture to Portland’s streets and waterways,” said Marilyn Clint, CEO at Portland Rose Festival.

Jordan’s family is united with him in Special Olympics Oregon. Said his youngest sister, Kiersten Lindahl, “I was involved with Special Olympics for seven years. For several of those years, I was Jordan’s teammate on a Unified Champions Schools basketball team, where Special Olympic athletes and their partners play together. It was extra special to play basketball with my brother.”

His mother, Tammy Lindahl, said “Jordan can be reluctant to try new things. At first, he was certainly skeptical about the Polar Plunge! But once he tries something, he goes all-in and becomes devoted to the event. For example, when Jordan began participating in the Polar Plunge, it was just him, participating as a solo, and he wasn’t very excited about it. But once he participated, he became a plunging fanatic. Now, years later, he has one of the biggest teams in the event and his team raises more money than almost anyone. That’s Jordan: he throws himself into the event, and gets others excited, too.”

“My Favorite memory of Jordan was watching he and his Unified Partner take the gold at the 2023 Summer Regional Games in Hillsboro,” said Harvey, “Jordan takes the sport of bocce incredibly seriously and was focused all the way through the game. It was a great match to watch. However, I also enjoy watching Jordan roll up to the Plunge site each year in a new costume, with his team of family and friends in tow.”


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