“Water is Life”- Courage Polar Bear Dip

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    Courage family affair: Trent, Vaughn (14 yrs.Trent’s son), Todd, Sean (18 yrs. Todd’s son)


    The 31st Annual Courage Polar Bear Dip is happening 2pm January 1, 2016 at Coronation Park in Oakville, ON.  www.polarbeardip.ca

The Interview:  Brothers Todd (52) and Trent (48) Courage founded what is now Canada’s largest Polar Bear Dip for charity as a fun event thirty one years ago after ringing in the New Year with friends. Recovering and lazing about on the couch on New Year’s Day their Mom, Gaye, told them to “go jump in the lake” and they did!  To date the Courage Polar Bear Dip has raised over 1.3 million dollars for the charity World Vision Canada (http://www.worldvision.ca/) to fund clean water projects around the world.

OurtownO recently interviewed Todd and Trent while they were busy setting up for this year’s Dip.

What do you eat for breakfast pre-dip on Jan. 1?  Both simultaneously answer “Beer!” “No, in all honesty,” Trent says, “we stop and grab a Tim Horton’s coffee and muffin on our way to Coronation Park early on New Year’s Day morning.”

Party on December 31? Yes or No?  “No” say the brothers in unison again. They add it is a quick “Happy New Year” to their families and off to bed at midnight.  Trent explains, “our New Year’s Party is after the Polar Bear Dip at The Tin Cup” (the Oakville bar that hosts the post-dip celebrations).

Which brother is more “courageous” about going in the water on Jan.1 ?  “It’s a toss up” according to Todd and Trent.  But they both always go in.  Trent says “the water temperature is relatively the same each year at  around 3 degrees.” “One year it did go as low as 1 degree” Todd says, and that he describes, with a broad smile and laughter, as feeling like “needles stabbing your body and your chest caving in from the cold -that was the year that it was warmer to stay in the water than out!”

What word(s) come to mind when you first enter the water?  Todd: “F***! and am I really doing this again!”  Trent: ” Are you F****** kidding me and where did my kids go because you are always keeping an eye on them in the water.”

Best costume in 30 years of The Courage Polar Dip?  Both brothers exuberantly recall past favourites like “the man who goes in the water each year as Father Time and comes out as Baby New Year -in the past few years he is just Baby New Year.”  There is also The Polar Beers. A group of guys dressed up as a six pack. Gene Simmons was an excellent costume one year, says Trent. Todd names the Halton Police team The Copsicles, MP Pam Damoff’s team The Rockin’ Chillin Polar Bears and Team World Vision as not only having fun costumes but as excellent financial supporters of the event as well.

Joking aside, there is a serious fundraising component to the event: This year’s target is to raise $120,000 for a clean water project in Rugarama, Rwanda.  2016’s Dip is the start of a two year $250,000 fundraising goal to bring fresh water to a community of 8,149 people.

Can you tell OurtownO a little about the project?  Water Is Life – Todd says those are the words sung and chanted by people when he and his brother went on a trip in 2009 (at their own expense) together with officials from World Vision to see first hand how their money was being used in Rwanda to support clean water projects. The brothers say the trip, the children, the people and the images will stay with them for a lifetime. “Water is Life” is what the locals repeatedly said to them.

• The incidence of water borne disease in the Rugarama district of Rwanda is high at 54 per cent.

• The under age 5 mortality rate in the area is well over 300 per 1,000 births.

• Providing access to safe water will reduce water borne illness, improve health throughout the community, increase productivity and allow children to attend school.

One word or so when you think of Canadians’ access to clean water?   Trent: “Incredibly fortunate” Todd: “We think, as Canadians, because we for the most part only know clean water, we think that is the way it is for everyone…unfortunately it’s not.”

The Courage Polar Bear Dip has become a multi-generational affair.  The brother’s Mom, Gaye, participated in the first dip and still goes in some years.  This year, Trent’s wife is going to make her inaugural dip.  Each brother has three children and they (and their friends) not only participate in the dip, but volunteer at the event as well.  Todd’s 18 year old son Sean was down at the lake helping with event set up on the day of this interview.  He says, “This is the year to do the Dip…there is no snow or ice on the ground…it’s warmer outside than most years.”  “This is the year!” the next generation repeats energetically with a big grin on his face!!

“Water for Water” – Gaye Courage

Link to Todd and Trent’s 2009 trip with World Vision to Rwanda


Happy New Year to all OurtownO readers!

Alix xx

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