Joe Hittel holds up Dean Ray CDs, which are being sold to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Hittel will rappel down the Stantec building in downtown Red Deer Sept. 19 while wearing his leprechaun costume during the Rope for Hope event. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

‘Leprechaun Joe’ ready for rescheduled Rope for Hope event in Red Deer

People will rappel down the 13-storey Stantec building on Sept. 19

At the age of 85, Joe Hittel says he’s thrilled to rappel down the side of the Stantec building in downtown Red Deer to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Rope for Hope was originally scheduled for July, but had to be moved to Sept. 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hittel has participated in the event for the past two years, raising nearly $50,000 for the foundation – in 2019, he was Canada’s top fundraiser.

He will once again put on his leprechaun costume for this year’s event, which features a number of people rappelling down the 13-storey building.

“I was real happy to find out the event is still going. I’m looking forward to rappelling again and raising more money,” Hittel said Thursday.

“Ever since I did my first one in 2018 … I keep waiting for the next year. So far, I’ve got four kids’ wishes granted.”

The money Hittel has raised has granted the life-changing wishes of seriously ill youths from Red Deer, Stettler and Lacombe.

“The money I raise stays right in central Alberta,” he said.

“A while back, I got a phone call one night. I picked it up, and as soon as she started talking, I could tell it was a little girl.

“She says, ‘I’d like to speak with Joe Hittel.’

“I said, ‘You’re speaking to him.’

“She says, ‘I just want to thank you for all the work you’re doing with the Make-A-Wish kids.’”

Hittel’s goal is to raise $85,000 this year. But he admits, that may be a challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Who knows? We might make it. If we don’t, we take into consideration all that’s happened. I have a little more time to go around and raise money,” he said.

In past years, Hittel has hosted a silent auction at Chillabong’s Bar and Grill to raise money.

“It’s done really well in the past. Whether we can do it this year, we’ll have to wait and see,” Hittel said, adding there will be an online auction.

Local musician Dean Ray recently released a CD titled Born to Play to help Hittel raise money.

“The CDs are being sold for $15 and a good percentage of it goes to Make-A-Wish,” said Hittel.

People can order a CD by contacting Hittel at 403-872-0329 or Ray at deanrayband@outlook.com.

Ray is hosting a small outdoor show for neighbours Friday night, in the hopes of selling some CDs and raising some more money, Hittel added.

To donate to Hittel’s page, visit makeawish.ca/donordrive.com/participant/JoeHittel.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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