The Make-A-Wish Foundation has recognized Red Deer’s Joe Hittel for raising more than $100,000 over the past few years.
On Friday, representatives met “Leprechaun Joe” on the roof of the Stantec building in downtown Red Deer, to award him a plaque to honour his fundraising efforts.
“It means the world to me. I always think of myself as an ordinary Joe,” said Hittel, 86.
“I’m happy to do it. I’ve shed lots of tears with stuff I’ve learned from some of the (Make-A-Wish) kids.”
This will be the fourth and final year Hittel will participate in the Rope for Hope fundraiser, which is being held at the 2-storey Coast Edmonton Plaza Hotel on Aug. 28. In past years, Red Deer participants would rappel down the Stantec building’s 13 storeys, but the event isn’t available in Red Deer, so they need to travel up to Edmonton to participate.
Through his first three years, Hittel raised $102,000. He has raised another $20,000-plus this year so far – his goal is to raise $86,000 in total to celebrate his 86th birthday.
It costs a bit more than $10,000 to grant a wish.
Jen Garden, Make-A-Wish Canada manager of development, said Hittel “means the world” to the foundation.
“Joe is our fearless and tenacious fundraiser,” said Garden.
“The first year was a little shocking when he said, ‘I’m 84.’ But then as I got to know Joe, (it became clear) age is not something he sees or feels for himself. I just use his age to inspire others (to participate) as well.”
Garden said she’s excited for this year’s Rope for Hope event.
“This year has not been the easiest as many know, but we have been granting wishes the entire time,” said Garden.
“The wishes look a little differently this year – obviously there’s no travel and we haven’t made a plan yet as to when we’ll return to travel. But we’ve been granting wishes for things like barrel-racing saddles, entertainment units, bedroom makeovers, giant playhouses, instruments, sporting equipment, you name it.”
Hittel, who dresses up as a leprechaun while rappelling, said fundraising has been going well so far this year.
“I want to make this the best year ever. Hopefully I can do it,” said Hittel, who recently received a Mayor’s Recognition Award for Distinguished Voluntary Service.
To donate to Hittel’s fundraising efforts, visit bit.ly/JoeHittel.