AMHERST – Gary Hunter picked a unique spot to enjoy his Father’s Day weekend.
The 34-year veteran of the Amherst Fire Department will sit just over 70 feet above the Wal-Mart parking lot until mid-afternoon Saturday as part of the 12th Annual John Michels Sr. Memorial Ladder Sit.
“I guess I’m a sucker for punishment,” Hunter quipped as his climbed into the bucket of the department’s largest vehicle. “It certainly is a different way to get a day off.”
Hunter volunteered to spend 50 hours in the air because he’s nearing retirement and wanted to do something to help raise money for Muscular Dystrophy research, programs and services for patients.
Michels was lifted into the air just after noon on Thursday and, except for breaks – during which he has his vital signs checked – he will remain in the bucket for 50 hours. He is scheduled to come down for good at 2 p.m. on Saturday, although he will be lowered in bad weather or if there is a fire emergency.
During the event, four voluntary toll stations are being set up at entrances to the parking lot.
Fire Chief Bill Crossman said the ladder sit is one of the department’s major fundraisers for MD and he said he’s always amazed at the level of community support.
“It’s a voluntary thing, but very seldom do we have someone who refuses to make a donation,” said Crossman, who himself spent 50 hours above the parking lot in 1999.
Hunter said he expects there will be some times when it gets pretty boring in the bucket, but he has brought along some crossword and word search puzzles and plans to play with his new cellphone.
As for his bed, he will attempt to stretch out as much as he can on the padded floor of the bucket. He will also admire the view.
“It’s really quite a view up there, you can see for miles,” Hunter said.