GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Special Olympics Michigan isn’t letting declining temperatures get in the way of one of its biggest annual fundraisers.

The 2023 Polar Plunge is underway and will be traveling to 30 locations across the state in hopes of raising enough money to fund the Special Olympics athletes who are looking to compete. Last year, the event raised over $1 million.

“I think it’s a good fundraising event for Special Olympics so we can have all these nice things that we get,” Max Hinga, a Special Olympian, said.

For this year’s event, the goal has increased to $1.2 million and the organization has already passed the halfway mark after just one weekend of plunging.

“It’s a great cause,” Mike Bielski, a Special Olympics coach, said. “We can’t do what we do without donations. Those people are a part of this too, even if they don’t think so.”

Both Hinga and Bielski have been a part of SOMI and have participated in the Polar Plunge multiple times throughout the years in order to help continue the mission of the organization. Hinga even started a few groups at his schools to help kids being bullied. He said the Polar Plunge is a great way to help everyone come together and unite.

“It’s not just about the athletes, it’s about everybody coming out to do the Polar Plunge and bring inclusion through everything that we can do,” he said.

Coaches, like Bielski, and other volunteers within SOMI also take part in the yearly event. Even after all of these years, Bielski said he has never gotten used to the temperatures but that it’s too important of an event to stop.

“It’s just a great thing,” Bielski said. “Everybody thinks we teach them a lot, and we do, but they teach us just as much about life and how to get through it.”

SOMI is also introducing a new way for people to jump into the water this year with the Plungester, a pool attached to a semi-truck that will be traveling to each location on its tour.

The following dates for the Polar Plunge are as followed:

  • Feb. 4: Turk Lake, Walled Lake, Fenton, Stevensville
  • Feb. 5: Lansing
  • Feb. 11: Lake City, Grand Rapids, Mt. Pleasant, Munising, Ann Arbor
  • Feb. 18: Wayne County, Kalamazoo, Great Lakes Bay, Alpena, Macomb County
  • Feb. 25: Big Rapids
  • March 2: Lansing
  • March 3: Detroit
  • March 4: Lapeer, Muskegon
  • March 11: Grand Traverse
  • March 18: Marquette, Manistee

No registration is needed beforehand to participate or volunteer for any of these stops. You can find more information on the Polar Plunge website.