Fire department's John Michels Sr. MD Ladder Sit begins Thursday

Darrell Cole
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Burke to spend 50 hours atop ladder truck

The Amherst Fire Department's 14th John Michels Sr. Ladder sit runs from Thursday at noon until Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Walmart parking lot.

Leon Burke will spend 50 hours suspended atop the Amherst Fire Department’s ladder truck from Thursday at noon until Saturday at 2 p.m. during the 14th John Michels Sr. Ladder Sit at the Walmart parking lot.

AMHERST – Ever since he first joined the Amherst Fire Department, Leon Burke has dreamed of the day he’d spend 50 hours atop the department’s ladder truck in support of its Muscular Dystrophy campaign.

“I’ve been wanting to do this from the very start. I’ve wanted to do this in memory of my grandfather ‘Pinky’ Burke. He was involved when the fire department first got involved in MD in 1964,” Burke said. “He stayed on the committee until 1975 and I consider it an honour to go up the ladder on his behalf this weekend.”

The 14th John Michels’ Senior Ladder Sit begins on Thursday at around noon in the Walmart parking lot. Burke will be hoisted to the top of the ladder truck’s 70-foot ladder, where he will spend a combined 50 hours looking down on the world.

“I’m sort of excited about it to tell you the truth,” Burke said. “I’m sure there will be lots of quiet time, but I’ll have my laptop up there with me and I’ll find some other things to do.”

During the ladder sit, voluntary toll stations will be set up at the entrances to the parking lot with all the money raised going to support MD research.

Burke’s time in the air will come to an end at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

It’s personal for Burke, who knows several people who have been afflicted by MD.

Burke said he’s talked to a lot of the other firefighters who have completed the ladder sit including Gregg LeBlanc, who did it in 2002; Gary Hunter, who did it in 2012; and Raymond MacDonald, who did it last year.

Fire Chief Greg Jones did the ladder sit in 2010 and he remembers it fondly.

“I did a lot of reading up there and watched a lot of movies on my laptop,” Jones said. “I remembered the weather was calling for rain all weekend and it ended up being perfect weather.”

Jones said the ladder sit generally raises between $16,000 and $20,000.

While participating in the sit, Burke will come down for meal breaks and to have his vital signs checked by Dr. Brian Ferguson and nurse Dawn Thompson, who have been longtime volunteers with the ladder sit.

The first ladder sit was in 1996, but in 2001 it was renamed in memory of Lt. John Michels Sr. His son participated in the ladder sit in 2000.

Last year, the fire department surpassed the $350,000 mark in funds raised for MD.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell


Past Ladder Sitters

1996 - Paul Black

1997 – Mike Brown

1998 – Ron Curtis

1999 – Bill Crossman

2000 – John Michels Jr.

2001 – George Black

2002 – Gregg LeBlanc

2003 – Steve Colborne

2004 – Stephen Landry

2005 – Jim Triff

2006 – Roger Gouchie

2007 – Jody MacKenzie

2008 – Paul Lacey

2009 – Alan Perry

2010 – Greg Jones

2011 – Chris Hicks

2012 – Gary Hunter

2013 – Raymond MacDonald


Organizations: Amherst Fire Department, Walmart

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