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History Of The Plunge

History of the Plunge

The members of the Lewes Polar Bears Club, headed by Dave ‘Da Bear’ Frederick, have taken the plunge since 1982. The club plunges five times each year at Cape Henlopen State Park on the first Sunday of the month from November through March – except January, when they plunge on New Year’s Day.


Special Olympics Delaware approached the Lewes Polar Bears Club in 1991 with the proposition of designating one of their plunges to benefit Special Olympics. The Club agreed to February, and the 1992 February Plunge was dedicated to Special Olympics Delaware. It was the beginning of what has become one of the most significant and successful fundraisers in the state of Delaware.

1992

At the inaugural event, 78 people took the plunge at Cape Henlopen State Park and raised $7,000.

1996

A nor’easter closes the park and, for the first time in its history, the plunge was postponed to March.

2009

The first Weekend Festival is held and attracts a record 2,923 Bears who raised more than $490,000.

2011

Bears celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Plunge. The Polar Bear Cake-Off is held to celebrate the anniversary and 3,094 Bears raise more than $550,000.

2020

3,733 Bears raise $1,018,000 -setting a record number of Bears and marking the Plunge’s first million-dollar year.

2022

The 31st Plunge is held in-person AND virtually with 3,244 Bears raising over $1 million! Air temperature was 32 degrees and water 37 degrees.

1995

Zero-degree temperatures and wind chills of -25 degrees greet 339 Bears.

1998

A nor’easter damages the park and makes it unusable. The Plunge moves to what has become its permanent home in Rehoboth Beach.

2010

A nor’easter arrived the Friday before the Weekend Festival and dumped over two feet of snow across the state, forcing the event to be postponed until March, when 2,683 Bears raised over $500,000.

2016

3,325 Bears celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Plunge by raising more than $780,000, bringing the 24-year total to more than $8.3 million.

2021

The 30th annual Plunge was Virtual Only due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Despite the challenges, our loyal Bears blew us away! 2,298 Bears raised more than $700,000 and set the stage for a virtual plunge to become a permanent option to participate in the event.

Anniversary Bears:
1992 – 2023

Have you been braving the icy Atlantic year after year? Find out if this is a milestone year for you and learn more about the anniversary incentives.

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Special Olympics Delaware

619 South College Ave.

Newark, Delaware 19716

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