Five reasons we still do the Polar Bear Dip every year

Jan 02, 2018
By Trent and Todd Courage

By now, most people we know have heard our story. We've been telling it for decades.

The idea was my mother’s back in 1985.  My brother and I, like typical teens, had a wild New Year’s Eve.  Not feeling well and couch-bound the next day, we were ordered by our mother to go out and jump in the lake to “clear out the cobwebs”.

We listened to her. We had no choice, really, but it turned out to be a life-changing event. Going into the water that brisk New Year’s Day felt like a shot of adrenaline. It was exhilarating, and we had never felt so alive. It was then that I knew, our winter lake-dipping days were just beginning.

The beginning of a movement
We kept doing it. The next year it got a little bigger, with a few friends and family members joining in. The year after that it grew even bigger.

Eventually the number grew into the hundreds. We called it the Polar Bear Dip and began using the event to raise money for worthy causes each year to up the ante.  

In 1995, we decided to partner with World Vision Canada and our Water for Water concept was born. On this side of the world we were jumping into chilly waters in the winter to help people on the other side of the world who don’t have good access to clean water.

The 33rd time’s the charm
This will be our 33rd year. So, what motivates us to keep running back into the bone-chilling water of Lake Ontario every New Year’s Day? Here are the top 5 reasons.

1. Bonding with our kids.
We started this well before our six kids (between the both of us) came along. But now that we have families, having them take an interest and be a part of the dip with us year after year is so rewarding. One of the most important lessons they’ve gleaned from participating in the dip is the value of helping those in need. They have seen what we’ve accomplished, with the help of World Vision, and are as driven as we are.

2. It's fun!
We look forward to it every year. It’s a great way to celebrate the New Year whether you’re a dipper or an onlooker. It’s just such a spectacle!Where else can you catch hundreds of people simultaneously running into a frigid lake in winter?! Not to mention the crazy costumes that some people come up with.
3. Community Engagement.
The town of Oakville has supported the dip for many years and continues to do so. It has grown from a small community event to the largest polar bear dip for charity in the country. Participants and volunteers, especially, have helped take the event to the next level and we are very grateful for that.
4. Seeing our efforts in action, with our own eyes.
About 10 years ago we were lucky enough to take a trip with World Vision Canada. We had the opportunity to visit Rwanda and see first-hand how the money raised from the Polar Bear Dip is impacting so many lives by providing clean, disease-free sources of water. After seeing the meaningful difference we were making, we felt even more inspired to continue.
5. It’s makes you feel like a million bucks!
Or a million and a half bucks, to be accurate. My brother and I have collectively raised over that amount for World Vision water projects over the years. Not only does the dip make you feel totally rejuvenated from head to toe, but the feeling you get from knowing that your efforts are helping such a worthy cause is unbeatable.
We would love to see even more people take the plunge with us. If you’re brave enough, join us on New Year’s Day at Coronation Park, 1426 Lakeshore Rd W, Oakville, with registration beginning at 12:30 p.m., and the dip itself starting at 2 p.m.

Trent and Todd Courage live in Oakville and have been doing the Polar Bear Dip for 33 years.