PORTLAND — More than 100 people jumped into frigid Casco Bay during the weekend to raise over $33,000 for a camp that offers a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Saturday’s Polar Dip at East End Beach raised about $10,000 more than was raised at last year’s dip in Portland, said Michael Smith, director of special events for Camp Sunshine.

“We sent over 100 people into the ocean, not a bad day at all,” Smith said. “Someone commented that it was one of the coldest years they could remember.”

Portland’s Polar Dip is one of nine regional dips held to raise money for Camp Sunshine, on Sebago Lake in Casco.

Smith said dips have been held as far south as Reston, Va., and as far north as Bangor. This season’s final plunge is scheduled for Saturday in West Haven, Conn.

Smith said the events, which require participants to collect pledges before diving into frigid bodies of water, have raised more than $300,000 for Camp Sunshine.

Smith said his staff was surprised at the number of people who showed up for Saturday’s dip. He said several hair salons in the Portland area participated, and the event was publicized by Portland radio station WJBQ-FM.

Each dipper spends about 15 seconds in the water. Saturday’s water temperature at East End Beach was 32 degrees.

“It was so shocking that I don’t even remember being in the water,” said Jeff Wilson of Portland, who raised $540 for Camp Sunshine.

“I’ve struggled with illnesses in my past. To be able to send a child and their family to this camp is a good feeling. It gives all of them a week off where you don’t have to worry about anything,” said Wilson.

Smith said Camp Sunshine is a year-round retreat. Children from all over the nation who have life-threatening illnesses get to stay with their families in their own suites for one week. Free medical, counseling and recreational services are provided.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]