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Thousands plunge into icy waters in annual 'Polar Bear Swim'

Last Updated Jan 1, 2016 at 9:11 pm EDT

Canadians across the country will ring in the New Year with a frosty tradition that some have called a rite of passage.

Thousands will plunge into icy cold waters for the annual “Polar Bear Swim.”

The oldest Polar Bear Club in the country was founded in 1920 in Vancouver, and since then the tradition has spread.

Vancouver’s club is still the largest, with more than 2,500 entries in 2014, but a swim just west of Toronto in Oakville, Ont., is expecting 1,000 to come out this year.

Sarah Bartley with World Vision says the Oakville Polar Bear Dip will raise money to support of their clean water programs.

“This year the money is going to a community in Rwanda where 30 per cent of children die before the age of five largely because of clean water issues and access to clean water,” she explained. “This is going to make a huge difference in this community. It’s going to save some lives this year.”

It’s hoped the event will raise more than $120,000.

In Toronto, over 500 people are expected to head to Sunnyside Beach raise money for Habitat for Humanity.