“Water isn't beautiful if it's not clear,” says Gaye Courage.
For the past 25 years, she and her sons Todd and Trent have taken the plunge into the beautiful but frigid waters of Lake Ontario on New Year’s Day with hundreds of other enthusiastic dippers, to raise money for clean water projects around the world through World Vision.
“It's just something we do,” says Gaye.
To date, the event has raised a staggering $1.8 million.
When they first considered making the event a charity fundraiser, they did a lot of research.
“I'd heard a lot about World Vision and so had my sons,” says Gaye. “The work that World Vision does with children is phenomenal.”
In 2009, Gaye and her two sons travelled to Rwanda to visit some of the water projects they’ve helped to fund over the years. Watch this video for a glimpse of their experience:
“All these years, I knew we were helping people, but I didn't really know until I saw it firsthand,” she says.
They visited communities with newly drilled boreholes, pumping clean water to the surface.
“It made such a huge difference,” says Gaye. “People were healthy and happy.”
“Even now, when I have a glass of clean water, I think how lucky we are here in Canada,” she adds.
The annual Polar Bear Dip
event, which first began on New Year’s Day, 1985, has grown significantly and is recognized as the largest charity polar bear dip in Canada, with close to 1000 dippers each year.
“I'm so proud of my sons for keeping this going,” says Gaye. “Working with World Vision has been wonderful, too. The volunteers that we have are the very best. We could not do it without them.”
As the Dip has grown, so has the Courage family, which means there are now three generations of the Courage family dipping.
“The grandchildren have always been into it,” says Gaye. “We feed off each other. I'll say I don't know if I want to do it this year, and they encourage me to go.”
Gaye has dipped almost every year for the past 35 years.
“I do yoga on a regular basis - maybe that helps,” she laughs. “I hope to do it ‘til I'm 80 at least. I love it.”