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Hundreds of polar bears dive into the new year

Jill Colton, staff writer

January 2, 2011 — Polar bear dips across southern Ontario offered a freezing cold way to ring in the new year.

Whoops and shrieks were heard all over southern Ontario on Saturday, as hundreds of people stripped off layers of clothing to take the polar bear plunge.

About 400 participants jumped into Lake Ontario at Sunnyside Park for about 40 frosty seconds. Although Toronto saw a record high of 12 degrees, it wasn't exactly pleasant swimming conditions. The water was so cold, some people said they couldn't feel their legs.

The dip was chilly, but it was all for a good cause. Polar bears raised a total of $30,000 for Habitat for Humanity, which is the equivalent to the cost of building foundations for six new homes.

In Oakville, around 700 thrill-seekers braved the freezing dip at Coronation Park. One of the participants was The Weather Network's own Chris Mei. The 26th annual Courage Polar Bear Dip brought in $150,000 for World Vision. Enough money was raised to complete a Manonga Water and Sanitation project in Tanzania.

At Ashbridge's Bay, 200 people took the frosty dive and raised $15,000 for the Sears Canada Charitable Foundation for research and treatment of kids living with cancer.

On Boxing Day, about two dozen brave souls stripped off their layers and took the plunge in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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