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Red Deer man raising money for Make-A-Wish Foundation again

Joe Hittel has raised $170,000 for the nonprofit organization
Red Deer’s Joe Hittel is once again raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation this year. The 88-year-old man can be seen here with Make-A-Wish Foundation northern Alberta chapter director Jen Garden (left) and Make-A-Wish Canada CEO Meaghan Stovel McKnight. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s Joe Hittel has raised $170,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the past five years and he’s not stopping now.

The 88-year-old man will once again be raising money for the nonprofit organization to grant wishes for children with critical illnesses.

He has his sights set on raising $50,000 in 2023, which is his sixth year of collecting donations.

“I’m going to be pounding the pavement and moving from business to business. I have my customers lined up pretty well. The ones who I know have always donated to me are the ones I go to first. Then I start making rounds to other people to reach my goal,” Hittel said on Thursday.

Hittel previously collected donations leading up to the Rope for Hope event in Red Deer from 2018-2020 and Edmonton in 2021. Rope for Hope featured people rappelling down the side of buildings to raise money. Hittel always rappelled while where a leprechaun costume, resulting in him earning the nickname “Leprechaun Joe.”

Rope for Hope was discontinued following the 2021 event, but Hittel continued to campaign for donations in 2022.

This year is Make-A-Wish Canada’s 40th anniversary.

“It’s a really important milestone, especially given the turbulence of the last couple of years. Seventy per cent of our wish kids usually include travel as part of their wish journey, so many wishes weren’t able to be granted over the last few years,” said Make-A-Wish Canada CEO Meaghan Stovel McKnight.

“Right now we have 4,000 kids who are waiting for wishes across Canada, with about 350 here in Northern and Central Alberta. We have lots of kids in need of the transformational power of a wish, so this opportunity to celebrate our 40th year as a milestone and turning point for us to grant more wishes is not only important for us, but also for these wish kids and families.”

Make-A-Wish Canada is aiming to double its wish delivery this year – 966 wishes were granted in 2022 and the goal this year is to grant 1,800.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, Make-A-Wish will send 40 families on their wish to go to Walt Disney World Resort on a single plane in July. The organization is saving a seat on that plane for Hittel.

“I’ve shed a lot of tears (over the past five years) and I’ll probably shed a lot more when I go to Disney World,” Hittel said.

McKnight said the impact Joe has made for Make-A-Wish kids is inspiring.

“We’d love to see the Red Deer community continue to rally around Joe to help make these wishes come true,” said McKnight.

Every year, Hittel has a silent auction to help raise funds. The date for that auction will be set soon.

To donate to Hittel’s campaign, visit

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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