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December 25, 2017

Why I Rappelled Down A Building in My Wheelchair

I loved going to Easter Seals camp as a kid. I got to do things I couldn’t do at home like playing sports, camping out, performing on stage and strutting my stuff on the dance floor. I was accepted and treated like everyone else by my cabin mates and counsellors. I had so much fun that used to cry when I had to leave and go home. I met my friend Todd at Lakewood Camp over 30 years ago when I was a camper and he was a counsellor. I wanted to help kids like me make great memories and lifelong friends like I have made with Todd.

I’ve always been a bit of a daredevil. I am not afraid to challenge myself. People tend to think I can’t do a lot of things. I like to focus on what I can do and try to figure a way to make things happen. I have been on roller coasters, spun upside down in space balls, stuck on velcro walls and rumbled down the highway in a Harley Davidson sidecar. Many of these adventures involved me getting lifted out of my wheelchair to take part in them.

The thought of rappelling down a building in my wheelchair while raising money for Easter Seals really appealed to me.  It wasn’t easy though! I was told my wheelchair was too heavy so I had to do a lot of things to get ready. My wheelchair and I were a combined 290 lbs. and we had to be 275 lbs. or lighter to take part. My dietician helped me lose some weight. My OT at Participation House and the seating clinic at Brantwood replaced parts of my chair to make it lighter and safer. I also attended a training session in Toronto.  When they heard what I was going to do, most people thought I was crazy or that they wouldn’t let me do it. I was determined to make it happen!

I wasn’t afraid to rappel down the building. I’m not scared of heights like Todd. It took my dad, Todd and two helpers to get my full body harness put on in the lobby. They also attached my wheelchair to the harness in four spots. My helmet was tight but it had to be so that I didn’t knock it off on my headrest. Todd took off my tray and my Dynavox and strapped my arms to my armrests and my feet to my footrest. The minutes we waited for the volunteer to take us up to the roof seemed like hours. I wanted to get going!

After a long elevator ride, Todd wheeled me out on the roof. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a six foot wall I had to go over before I would descend down the building! Todd pushed me over to the wall and the rappel team went to work. The sounds of carabiners clicking was hypnotic. Once I was hooked up, they began lifting me into the air. Todd could see that I was uncomfortable with the strap around my neck so they adjusted it and I was on my way!

When I reached the top of the wall, my rappelling partner asked me if I liked the view up here. I looked around and had a great view of the city. I could feel the wind on my face and I felt like Superman. I couldn’t wait to fly down the side of the building. I wished the cape of my costume could’ve fluttered behind me but it was strapped in the harness. It wasn’t until I was lowered over the side of the wall that I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest!

As l rappelled down the building, I saw people in the window with signs and thumbs up for me. I was too much in the zone to respond. I was in the moment. I only lost focus when my wheelchair’s footrest bumped the glass. What a rush! Nearing the bottom I could hear the crowd and the MC cheering me on and Todd yelling and calling me a crazy nut. When I reached the ground I couldn’t believe it was over. I DID IT!!! I wanted to go again! Next year they told me.

I don’t know if I can wait that long. Maybe I could rappel down from the ACC’s roof and drop the puck for my beloved Maple Leafs. Or maybe I could rappel down from the Roger Centre’s roof and throw out the first pitch for my Blue Jays. If I can’t do either of those things, I’d love to try skydiving. Geronimo! I raised over $2000 for Easter Seals kids by doing Drop Zone. Maybe Barry and Matt will do it with me next year if they are not chicken and we can raise even more!

Before I left I met Easter Seals CEO Kevin Collins and he told me that it costs $3500 to send a kid to camp for 2 weeks. I want to do more so I’m participating in the Maple Leaf Skate for Easter Seals. I get to skate on the ice with some players if I fundraise.  I am a huge Leafs fan and that would be awesome! It would be even better if I could raise enough to send a kid like I once was to camp. Please sponsor me and make an Easter Seals kid’s dream come true! Thank you.

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To donate to Easter Seals and sponsor Andrew, please click here.

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