MANISTEE — Divers will once again be “freezin’ for a reason” during the third annual Manistee Polar Plunge.

Participants will jump into a pool of icy water to benefit Special Olympics Michigan at the Polar Plunge on Saturday, March 14, at the Little River Casino Resort.

The event, which is sponsored by the Michigan Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) raises funds for Special Olympics Michigan Area 24, benefiting athletes in Manistee, Mason and Lake counties.

With over 50 participants pledging to plunge, organizers say the event has grown, both locally and across the state.

“All of our events have been doing really well, most of them are going over budget and we have more plungers than we’ve ever had across the state,” said Heather Fox, Special Olympics Michigan senior development and events manager. “Typically they get around 4,000 plungers each year, but this year is expected to top out over 5,000.”

According to Fox, Special Olympics is looking to raise $2 million across LETR-hosted events throughout the year.

“They do bowling events, truck pulls, restaurant events — all sorts of things. But obviously our plunge events are our number one fundraiser, which should raise about $1.3 million this year,” Fox said.

Manistee is one of 30 Polar Plunge locations in Michigan.

Before taking the plunge, participants aim to raise at least $75 in pledge money. People can sign up to plunge the day of the event, but are encouraged to register ahead of time and help raise funds. Locally, organizers hope to raise $25,000.

Registration for the event begins at 11 a.m. at the casino, located at 2700 Orchard Highway in Manistee. Attendees will begin taking the plunge at 1 p.m.

LETR volunteer James Dennis said that events like the Polar Plunge are essential sources of funding for the Special Olympics. Proceeds from these plunges help support year-round sports training, athletic competition and health programs for more than 23,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Michigan.

“It helps pay for uniforms, equipment, sometimes facility fees and different things like that,” he said.

Following the plunge, there will be an “After Splash Bash” featuring food and a silent auction. Bidding for the silent auction is expected to wrap-up around 3 p.m.

“We have one of the best silent auctions in the area to help us raise this money and businesses have been incredible from Manistee to Ludington and Lake County,” he said.

Several area schools will participate in the plunge, including Bear Lake Schools, Manistee Catholic Central and Gateway to Success Academy in Scottville. Gateway to Success Academy was recognized as the top fundraiser during last year’s plunge, raising $3,146 for local athletes. Bear Lake Schools was selected by the judges for the best plunge award.

Local law enforcement like the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office dive team will be on the scene to show their support and ensure the safety of the plunge participants.

Though retired, Dennis plans on continuing his volunteer work with the Special Olympics for the rest of his life.

“I believe in it that much,” he said. “I’ve seen how all the athletes were being helped and heard from the ones that could communicate how (Special Olympics) changed their lives. How they went from being bullied to feeling like ‘I am somebody.’ So it truly changes lives for these kids.”

Donations to benefit Special Olympics are accepted online at somi.org/polarplunge. To register or support Manistee’s Polar Plunge, visit classy.org/event/manistee-polar-plunge/e253951.