The 28th Annual Courage Polar Bear Dip, Canada’s largest polar bear dip for charity, will help fund fresh water projects in Kahi, Rwanda, a World Vision Canada project. The day was ideal, although the temperature was frosty. The lake sparkled. The sun shone – and the snow covering Coronation Park, Oakville added to the festive and exuberant atmosphere! 700 enthusiastic Dippers were ready to plunge into the icy waters of Lake Ontario to raise funds for World Vision Canada.
As the story goes…. 28 years ago Trent and Todd Courage were teenagers with a hang-over from their New Years Eve party. Mom, Gayle Courage, likely told them to “go jump in the lake”. They did – and an idea was born! Every year since, friends and family have gone for a dip into the cold waters of Lake Ontario on New Year’s Day to raise monies for the charity of their choice, World Vision Canada. “Water for Water” has become their slogan; Fresh water for the 3000 children in Kahi, Rwanda!
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This year on January 1st 2013, as more and more friends joined the crusade, 700 Dippers this year, the Courage Polar Bear Dip has become the largest Polar Bear Dip in Canada and, with the help of many Dippers, sponsors, volunteers and fundraisers, has broken the one million dollar mark in total funds raised for clean water projects in developing countries through World Vision Canada! Furthermore, their efforts have won the Courage brothers recognition. Todd and Trent Courage were awarded the Queen Elizabeth 11 Diamond Jubilee Medal for their outstanding contribution.
“Twenty-eight years ago, I never would have dreamed that we’d be talking about raising one million dollars for water projects through World Vision,” says Todd Courage. “Here in North America, that amount of money doesn’t go very far, but in places like Kahi, Rwanda – which we visited a few years ago – it can provide a lot of clean water and save a lot of lives.”
As the Courage Polar Bear Dip has grown, so have the activities surrounding the event. There was live music and the perennial favourite, the costume contest. Dippers of all ages go to great lengths to design unusual and often outlandish costumes, adding to the excitement of this holiday extravaganza. The Tin Cup Oakville Sports Grill was on hand selling food and drink and to hold the official post-dip evening celebration, with all funds being donated to World Vision Canada. This 2013 Courage Polar Bear Dip included a Swag Bag that included goodies donated by many merchants throughout Oakville and a second swag bag from the Bronte Village BIA.
The Courage Polar Bear Dip into Lake Ontario was executed in three waves, each consisting of hundreds of swimmers, all laughing, hooting and enjoying the experience. A few thousand spectators, who will likely become next year’s Dippers, watched in awe and cheered the Dippers on as they happily scrambled both in and out of the water and were wrapped in towels in order to regain their warmth. Heated change tents were provided. Warm, dry clothes had never felt so good!
Why people do the Courage Polar Bear Dip is anyone’s guess. One man dressed as Santa said, “I have been coming to the Polar Bear Dip for 14 years and look forward to it every year!” Some Dippers merely want to be a part of the carnival-like atmosphere and to have a good time. Others participate just to raise money to help the Courage Polar Bear Dip reach their goal of providing clean water solutions for underdeveloped countries around the world – but whichever it is, one thing is sure, the Dippers all do it with enthusiasm and a passion that’s seldom seen. One only needs to attend an event to witness the excitement. Plan to come to Coronation Park and take the plunge in the 2014 Courage Polar Bear Dip!
To donate money to this worthwhile cause or to learn more about the 2013/2014 Courage Polar Bear Dip, visit: www.polarbeardip.ca