Make-A-Wish sends thrill seekers rappelling down city hall
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There’s an underwhelming grey mat that straddles the edge of city hall and the sky. You stand on it with your back to the abyss, straighten your legs and step back. With a small squeeze of the manual control, you release a bit of rope, and look at the concrete stylings of city hall as you descend 30 storeys.
Make-A-Wish, the granter of dreams to children with life-threatening medical conditions, is taking a leap for fundraising this year, letting people who raise more than $1,500 have a thrill on the most bureaucratic tower in the city.
“We were really searching for something to hang our hat on that stood out, and break through the noise of runs and marathons,” said regional director Sheila Rees. “The market is saturated with that. We were looking for a personal challenge event.”
And so they teamed up with Over the Edge, a Halifax based company that bills its rappelling fundraisers as “headline grabbing” events that can net six figures for charity. Make-A-Wish is hoping to raise $135,000. On Monday, they were approaching $100,000.
Monday was media day, where the usual suspects lumbered around City Hall like the ghost of Christmas past with metal attachments clanging around the knees. As the Star’s feats-of-wonder-at-high-altitudes correspondent, I assumed my place among them.
City hall’s eastern rooftop is a concrete affair with some air-conditioning units and bits of moss. On Monday, ropes were expertly arranged and draped over the windowless side of the building. Reassuring individuals told us what to do and made sure we were safe. Then, I took a few steps back and disappeared over the wall, and dangled over the city like a window washer. After a few floors, my hand was a little sore from all the squeezing, but within 10 minutes, the Make-A-Wish employees were cheering my descent.
Tom Bourque was on the ground watching and preparing for Tuesday, when he and his daughter Tara will do the same thing.
It will be the first big adventure for Tara Bourque’s new lungs. She has Cystic Fibrosis and had a double lung transplant earlier this year. Her dad said the post-operation checkup went well on Monday — “a clean bill of health.”
It’s a much better prognosis than the Sarnia teen had last year, when her lungs were rapidly deteriorating and Make-A-Wish arranged for her to meet the cast of Glee.
“Having lower lung capacity was the norm for me, you adapt to it, like a limp,” the 18-year-old says. “I didn’t realize how sick I was before the transplant, all my friends were telling me, ‘you’re really sick,’ but it didn’t register completely for me.”
Bourque takes a daily regimen of pills to ensure her body won’t reject her new lungs. Eight months ago, she couldn’t walk for five minutes without taking a rest. Now she will throw herself over the edge.
“They were a gift to me and I’m going to put them to good use,” she says. “Hopefully I won’t freak out too much.”
Six families involved with the charity will be participating on Tuesday.
Brian Veloso, will be there, rappelling for his youngest son Owen, who was born with a rare congenital heart defect, hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Owen will be four in two weeks, and he has already undergone four open heart surgeries, and suffered a stroke and a cardiac arrest. Veloso said when people think about those traumatic events, they don’t necessarily think about children.
Owen’s wish was granted earlier this year. He was a firefighter for a day and got to use the Jaws of Life. Veloso said he truly appreciated the impact of the charity “when you see the smile on your kid’s face and how much it means to them.”
At city hall last week, Owen was wearing his fire hat and pointing excitedly at the birds, with an easy smile on his face.
“He knows Dad is going to do a goofy thing on Tuesday, going to come down on a building, something’s fun going to happen,” Veloso says.
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