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. (year-by-year money raised)
1992 -- At the inaugural event, 78 people took the plunge at Cape Henlopen State Park and raised $7,000.
1995 -- Zero-degree temperatures and wind chills of -25 degrees greet 339 bears.
1996 -- A nor’easter closes the park and for the first time in its history the plunge was postponed to the first Sunday in March.
1998 -- A nor’easter damages the park and makes it unusable. The Plunge moves to what would then become it's permanent home in Rehoboth Beach.
2009 -- The first Weekend Festival is held and attracts a record 2,923 Polar Bears who raised more than $490,000 for Special Olympics Delaware. The 5k Run to the Plunge and Restaurant Chili Contest were just two of several activities that were offered throughout the weekend, as local restaurants and businesses opened their doors and provided discounts for Bears.
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 12 - 14, when 2,683 Bears raised over $500,000.
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.
2015 -- 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.
2017 - SODE eclipses the $10 million mark for money raised in 26 years.
2019 -- 3,544 (3rd highest) Bears raised $906,000 (new record).
The 2020 Lewes Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday, February 2nd will mark the 29th anniversary of the event.