An amazing annual event has taken place on the Jersey Shore for the last 30 years that is one of New Jersey’s most significant and successful fundraisers, not to mention fun event to attend. This year marks the 30th annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics New Jersey held on the beach at Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

On Saturday, 7,571 brave souls took a plunge into the 43.5-degree waters of the ocean raising over an astounding and record-breaking $2.6 million all for Special Olympics New Jersey. Where else within three minutes can you raise over $2 million? (The water was warmer than the air, which got to a high of only 33 degrees.)

Scroll down to find more photos from today's event.

This unique and enjoyable event was started in 1994 when Berkeley Township police officer Jimmy Smit and State Trooper Kevin Burke encouraged 73 plungers, mostly fellow law enforcement officers, to jump into the February chilled waters of the Atlantic off Point Pleasant Beach, raising a few thousand dollars.

attachment-Seaside plungers

I got involved with the plunge in 1996 and started to broadcast my show from the event each year. It is always one of my favorite events. The plunge was 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’re going to raise over $1,000,000 today” and I think you have to be kidding me but they were always right on the number. Heading into today’s plunge, over 29 years there have been more than 105,000 plungers who previously raised an incredible $29 million.

attachment-seaside weather

Since its inception, there have been other charities that 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 out to witness this event, in some years, depending on the weather, the plunge would generate well over 100,000 spectators lining up along the boardwalk to see the trudging of the frozen plungers.

It should be mentioned that this event would not be 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.

The 2023 Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside in Seaside Heights, NJ, on Saturday, February 25, 2023. Andrew Miller/For Townsquare Media NJ
The 2023 Polar Bear Plunge at Seaside in Seaside Heights, NJ, on Saturday, February 25, 2023. Andrew Miller/For Townsquare Media NJ

One of the many reasons why I’m a fan of Special Olympics New Jersey is because the charity spends over 80% of all money collected on the programs that serve the 25,000 Special Olympic participants right here in New Jersey. That 80% and more of all donations going directly to the participants is highly regarded as notable and credible and is in the upper percentage of those charities that operate on a small portion of the profits.

I encourage you to join me next year for the Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey in Seaside Heights it is a fun way to help raise money for a great cause.

2023 Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge

Photos from the 2023 Seaside Heights Polar Bear Plunge, which raised $2.5 million for the Special Olympics New Jersey.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

Even more cutest pets in New Jersey — 2023

We asked for the cutest pets — and we got 'em! Here are some more of all the furry, scaly, feathery and wrinkly friends in the Garden State. We've announced our winner here.