A Record Brrrreaking Year for Polar Plunge

2,664 Chill Seekers Raise $1.55 Million for Special Olympics Virginia at 31st Polar Plunge® Festival

Virginia Beach, VA – Whether they just dipped in their toes or went ALL IN, 2,664 colony members (a group of penguins is called a colony and ours is one of the best) went for the COLD – and earned GOLD in our hearts – at the 2023 Polar Plunge, Feb. 3-4. Plungers and runners not only celebrated a record breaking $1.55 million raised – and counting! – for Special Olympics Virginia, but also the event’s twelfth million-dollar year.

“Following our athletes’ lead, Special Olympics Virginia strives to create communities where all are welcomed, all are respected, all are included, and all are valued. Our Polar Plunge is a prime example of what we can do when we work together toward those goals,” said David Thomason, Special Olympics Virginia President. “Among those brave enough to #GoForTheCold today are people with intellectual disabilities and those without; people of all ages, genders, races, and faiths; people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Each Polar Plunge participant is contributing to Special Olympics Virginia’s transformative impact toward more unified communities here in Hampton Roads, and throughout Virginia.”

In addition to the main event, students and teachers kicked things off Friday, Feb. 3 at the Cool School Challenge. 350 students raised $58,243 in support of Special Olympics Virginia’s 18,000+ athletes. Students were happy to be back on the beach after two years of “lazy river penguin plunges” because of pandemic challenges. Another almost 200 students also will be channeling their inner penguins and “plunging their way” at their school in the coming days. One lucky duck – oops we mean penguin – Olivia Hagan, a student at Plaza Middle School, took home the top fundraising prize and will get to join Craig Moeller live on 13 News Now’s Daybreak morning show after the event.

Friday evening, 347 runners and walkers dashed during the 5K Run/Waddle along the boardwalk. The Friday festivities continued at the Pre-Plunge Party on the beach, featuring music by DJ Julian and cool drinks thanks to a new partner, Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Saturday, before the Plunge at 1 pm, plungers and festivalgoers enjoyed more music by DJ Julian, the TJ Maxx Boardwalk Boogie Costume Parade and Contest, vendors, a life-size sand sculpture, food and fun.

While they weren’t all wearing penguin-like tuxedos (penguin camouflage has a special name, countershading, by the way), we couldn’t have done it without each and every plunger, runner, partner and volunteer in our colony. Here are a few additional highlights:

  • The Ice-Aholics team took home the Top Team fundraising award, with more than $76,939 raised.
  • Jennifer Bonds raised $25,662 and claimed the top individual fundraising prize and some cool bragging rights.

This year’s event is presented by FM99, 106.9 THE FOX, WTKR NewsChannel 3, The Wawa Foundation, Virginia Natural Gas, Walmart, Lamar, GEICO, WGNT, the Knights of Columbus, Davis Ad Agency and the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Virginia. Since 1993, more than 60,500 plungers have raised more than $19.5 million for Special Olympics Virginia. The inaugural Polar Plunge took place in 1993 at the Clarion Hotel when 108 plungers raised $11,000 for Special Olympics Virginia.

This event is one of five Polar Plunges in Virginia. In addition to the Virginia Beach event, our first Polar Plunge took place in Richmond in December and raised $72,000. It was followed by our second Plunge in Northern Virginia at the Mosaic District in January, which raised $60,000. Still to come are a Plunge at Leesylvania State Park Saturday, Feb 18 and one in the New River Valley, Saturday, Feb. 25. You can still register for both of the February events at