Today I had the pleasure of once again hosting one of my favorite events — the 31st annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics New Jersey. As many as 65,000 people came out and braved the 38-degree air temperatures to witness and participate in this big event.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, more than 8,000 took a plunge into the 41-degree ocean waters, raising over an astounding $2.75 million all for Special Olympics New Jersey. Where else within three minutes can you raise over $2 million?

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This unique and enjoyable event began in 1994 when Berkeley Township New Jersey police officer Jimmy Smit and New State Trooper Kevin Burke encouraged seventy-three plungers, mostly fellow law enforcement officers to jump into the February chilled waters of the Atlantic off the beaches of Pt. Pleasant Beach raising a few thousand dollars.

I got involved with the plunge in 1996 and started to broadcast my show from the event each year. It has always been one of my favorite events.

The plunge moved to Seaside Heights in 2007 and continued to grow each year. There were times when Jimmy and Kevin the organizers would say, “Big Joe, we are going to raise over a million dollars today,” and you must be kidding me, but they were always right on the number.

Heading into today’s plunge, over the 30 years there have been more than 112,000 plungers who have raised over an incredible $31 million! Since its inception there have been other charities which have followed the template of this plunge, but none are as successful or have the longevity of the Polar Bear Plunge of Seaside Heights.

There are huge crowds who come to witness this event. Last year Seaside Heights Chief of Police Tommy Boyd estimated the crowd to be well over 100,000 spectators lined up along the boardwalk to see the trudging of the frozen plungers.

It should be noted that this event would not have been as successful without the outstanding support of the New Jersey law enforcement community. They have stepped up big time in garnering support and help in making the event run so smoothly and profitable benefiting a great charity Special Olympics New Jersey. It truly makes me proud to be from New Jersey.

One of the main reasons why I am a fan of Special Olympics New Jersey is because the charity spends over 85% of all money collected on the programs that serve the 25,000 Special Olympic participants right here in New Jersey. That 85% collection and payout is notable and is in the upper percentage of those charities that operate on a small portion of their profits.

This is a fun event that brings a tremendous amount of people together for a great cause. I hope that you can make it next year when we kick off our 32nd year.

2024 Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge raises $2.75M

More than 8,000 people got freezin' for a reason on Saturday, Feb. 24 for the annual Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge, which raises millions of dollars for Special Olympics New Jersey.

Gallery Credit: Andrew Miller/For New Jersey 101.5

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