Despite the Make-A-Wish Foundation ending it’s Rope for Hope campaign, Red Deer’s Joe Hittel is still raising money for the nonprofit organization.
Since 2018, the 87-year-old has raised more than $140,000 through Rope for Hope, which featured people rappelling down the side of buildings.
Hittel rappelled down the side of the 13-storey Stantec Building in downtown Red Deer from 2018-20 and in 2021 he rappelled down the 23-storey Coast Edmonton Plaza in Edmonton. Each year he would wear a leprechaun costume while participating in the event, giving him the nickname “Leprechaun Joe.”
Even though last year’s Rope for Hope was the final time the event was held, Hittel said he wanted to keep raising money to grant wishes.
“I enjoyed every minute of what I was doing for the four years I did it,” said Hittel.
“The first time I was collecting money they didn’t know me when I was going around to the businesses – I didn’t know there was that many businesses. It got better every year. Second or third year they were saying, ‘Oh here he comes again.’”
Hittel has launched his own personal fundraising campaign called “Leprechaun Joe Mission for Wishes.” He has already begun collecting money, which will support the foundation.
But will Hittel miss rappelling down the side of a building?
“I miss it already,” he said.
It costs about $10,000 to grant a wish, meaning Hittel has raised enough money to grant 14 wishes for Central Alberta kids with critical illnesses. He has met two kids whose wishes were granted through the funds he raised and has read about two others.
Hittel said he has “shed many tears” when thinking about the impact his fundraising has had on so many families.
In 2019, Hittel was named the Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Last summer, the Make-A-Wish Foundation awarded Hittel with a plaque to honour his fundraising efforts.
Hittel also met with Meaghan Stovel McKnight, Make-A-Wish Canada CEO, earlier this month to share his story.
There is no particular goal in terms of how much Hittel is aiming to raise during his Leprechaun Joe Mission for Wishes campaign.
“I’m not going to quit. I would like to see (the fundraising total) go even higher than some of the other years if that’s possible,” he said.
To donate to Hittel’s campaign, visit bit.ly/JoeHittel2022 or contact him directly at 403-872-0329.