John Michels Sr. Memorial Ladder Sit begins Thursday

Darrell Cole
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Firefighters raising money for MD

Raymond MacDonald of the Amherst Fire Department checks out the ladder in preparation for the beginning of the 13th John Michels Sr. Ladder Sit that starts at noon on Thursday at the Wal-Mart parking lot. 

AMHERST – This year’s John Michels Sr. Memorial Ladder Sit has special meaning for Raymond MacDonald.

MacDonald, who will be hoisted atop the Amherst Fire Department’s ladder truck at noon Thursday, is dedicating his participation in memory of his brother who passed way nearly 40 years ago from Muscular Dystrohy.

“I’ll be thinking of him a lot while up there,” MacDonald said Tuesday. “He died in1974 and he had MD. I guess it’s my way of paying tribute to him.”

The 13th annual ladder sit, that began as a challenge with the Cole Harbour Fire Department runs from noon on Thursday until about 2 p.m. on Saturday. During that time, MacDonald will spend 50 hours suspended from the bucket of the department’s largest vehicle.

“Hopefully the weather will be good, it can get a little windy up there,” MacDonald said.  “Hopefully the weather is also good so we get lots of people out.”

Depending on weather conditions, he could be hoisted as high as 70 feet above the parking lot at Wal-Mart. Volunteers, including firefighters and cadets, will be staffing voluntary toll stations at the entrances to the parking lot.

Since the beginning, it’s estimated that more than $130,000 has been raised for the fight against Muscular Dystrophy. The weekend fundraiser usually raises in the area of $15,000.

“Last year we saw up close how important the money is that we raise. When we had our banquet last fall, the family of child suffering from MD came to accept our donation,” MacDonald said. “Right then we knew what we were doing was important.”

MacDonald has been involved on the organizing committee for several years and was also its chairman. He decided it was his turn to go up in the ladder this year so he signed up and was selected.

MacDonald said he will likely keep himself occupied with crossword puzzles and watching movies while he’s up, while he admitted he’ll have a pair of binoculars close so he can see the sights.

“There’ll be plenty to see up there. I’ve been told it’s quite a view,” MacDonald said.

Chief Bill Crossman said there’s usually a competition to go up the ladder. The committee interviews the applicants and makes a decision, usually based on seniority.

He said the successful applicant has to take a medical in order to qualify for the ladder sit and his vitals are checked regularly during the 50-hour session. For each hour he’s in the air, MacDonald will bank five minutes he can take on the ground for a break.

“There’s no shortage of people willing to go up the ladder,” said Crossman, who participated in the ladder sit in 1999. “People are also very supportive of the event. Very rarely does someone ever refuse to make a donation.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Amherst Fire Department, Cole Harbour Fire Department, Wal-Mart

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