River Hospital’s 34th annual Polar Bear Dip will return, live, to Bonnie Castle Resort and Marina on Saturday, February 24th, 2024. Dipping begins at 1PM. Pre-registration for teams and individuals can be accomplished through the River Hospital’s website at the “Events” tab. The minimum event donation is $100.00 per dipper in money raised, and individual donations can also be made at this site. In-person participants must check in between 9AM to noon at Bonnie Castle on the day of the event to receive a “dip number”. Virtual dippers can participate remotely as they have for the past three years. Vitual dippers must submit their photos or videos by February 9th, 2024.
The 2024 Polar Bear Dip stands to be as fun as ever. This year’s fundraising goal is $80,000, to support the hospital’s Emergency Room. Every year a growing number of hearty dippers braves the February elements by taking their first dive of a new year while raising money for the hospital. The public is invited to attend free of charge, and can help with their own donations on Dip day. This event will also be available via live stream at www.riverhospital.org. You can watch and donate online from the comfort of your own cozy den, wherever you spend the winter.
The time-honored Polar Bear Dip was started in 1991 by the Friends of River Hospital – a group of dedicated volunteers who raise money for specific hospital needs and projects. The first Polar Bear Dip was held in front of the Edgewood Resort. Now, dippers take to the water at Bonnie Castle under the watchful eye of dive teams from the New York State Troopers and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Special Tactics and Rescue Team (S.T.A.R.). Participants harness up for safety and then jump off the dock into what may have been ice only hours before. Soldiers from Fort Drum, local service organizations and many students have helped the event gain momentum every year. But the stars of the show remain those intrepid dippers who are willing to shiver for River Hospital. Individuals and teams raise money through donations from friends, family and co-workers.
Emily Mastaler, River Hospital’s President and CEO, says, “We are so excited for the 2024 Polar Bear Dip. This years’ dip will continue to raise funds to support our Emergency Department. While healthcare costs continue to rise, our Emergency Department utilization remains at an all-time high. Help from last year’s dip was instrumental to managing these costs, and we’re hoping we can do it again.”
She continues, “Despite rising costs and growing need, River Hospital’s Emergency Room was ranked 17th-best in the state for wait time, which is simply remarkable. This year’s support will go to a variety of departmental needs, ranging from support with minor equipment to medical supplies. Our Emergency Room is open 24/7 for our community, no matter what. Additional support to ensure that we continue to offer efficient and exceptional care to our neighbors, families and friends is deeply appreciated.”
One team that will make a return appearance for this year’s Polar Bear Dip is Sofa King Cold. Core members of this year’s team are Sheila Smith, Don Smith, Jillian McNaughton and Elizabeth “Litzie” Warren. “All of our team members have strong ties to the Thousand Islands,” says Mrs. Smith. “We all consider River Hospital an important asset for this area. And our whole team has benefitted from having it nearby.”
“This year will be our team’s third Polar Bear Dip,” she continues. “Last year we were able to raise over $22,000.00. The Dip is a fun way to help support the hospital, and we all enjoy the camaraderie of raising funds and dipping together.”
Stephanie Weiss, River Hospital’s Executive Director of Development, says, “River Hospital is delighted to present the Polar Bear Dip again this year. Our dippers generate a tremendous amount of energy and fun. The creativity demonstrated by dippers, many of whom take the plunge in costume, is always amazing,” she continues. “We are looking forward to seeing “The Ice Holes”, “Colden Girls” and, as ever, “Cody 22”, three of the teams that have pre-registered.”
To learn more about River Hospital’s Polar Bear Dip and how you can get involved, please contact Claire Wakefield by email at
By Wayne Strauss, Contributing Writer