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Despite cramped quarters and a little rain, Graham spends 50 hours above Walmart parking lot


19th annual John Michels Sr. Ladder sit raises more than $17,000 for MD campaign

AMHERST, N.S. —

The hardest part about spending 50 hours 70 feet above the ground is sleeping.

Eric Graham, a member with the Amherst Fire Department, came down from his perch above the Walmart parking lot on June 15 after being lifted atop the department’s aerial platform around noon on June 13.

“It went well, although it was difficult getting to sleep,” Graham said. “There wasn’t a lot of room and some rain got in there Thursday night. I tried the gravity chair at first, but it didn’t work so I slept on the floor. Not a lot of leg room.”

To pass the time he enjoyed the scenery and watched TV shows on his tablet. A member of the pipes and drums when he was an air cadet, he brought his bagpipes aboard during his last few hours and played a few tunes from 70 feet above ground.

His wife, Kaitlyn, spent the last two hours atop the platform with her husband.

“I’m proud of him,” she said. “I was kind anxious the entire time about how he was doing and whether he was sleeping well.”

It didn’t surprise her that her husband would volunteer to be the ladder sitter this year, considering his volunteer work with the department and with the pipes and drums.

Graham said he was looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep on his first night on the ground.

Craig Churchill, who has chaired the department’s ladder sit committee for several years, said the event went very well and the public was very generous.

“It was one of the best results we’ve had in a long time,” he said. “The numbers are still coming in, but it looks like we’re going to be over $17,000. I think we’ve broken some records and this week will be one of the highest we’ve ever raised.”

What began as a challenge with the Cole Harbour-Westphal department in 1996 to raise the most money for the muscular dystrophy campaign, the Amherst ladder sit was renamed in honour of John Michels Sr. 19 years ago has continued and is the biggest contributor to the department’s MD campaign.

“I’m very surprised with the results and each year it seems to keep getting bigger and better,” Churchill said. “It’s a wonderful feeling when we present that cheque to the muscular dystrophy association.”

Churchill said it’s a team approach among members of the community and the department. Various town restaurants provided meals for the ladder sitter while Dr. Brian Ferguson and a nurse were on hand doing medical checkups throughout the weekend.

He thanked everyone involved over the three days and said members of the fire department really rose to the occasion.

He also credited Graham for volunteering to be the latest in a long line of ladder sitters.

“He’s golden to me,” Churchill said. “I don’t think I could spend 50 hours up there.”

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