Tyler Howe greets his co-workers on the second floor on Thursday as he rappels down a 17-storey building in a Hula outfit for Easter Seals Drop Zone Toronto.

Local superheroes rappel for Easter Seals

Participants raised close to $200,000 in support of the children's charity

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s over 100 people from across the GTA taking part in the seventh annual Easter Seals Drop Zone Toronto on Thursday, an event that tested their nerves of steel by rappelling down a 17-storey building.

John Moore, a host with NewsTalk1010 Radio, was among the first to go down the side in support of the 90-year old charity.

“I have to say it’s pretty scary,” said Moore, describing his descent. “I know some people relax and they look at the beautiful view, but I was like, ‘I want it to be over, I want it to be over …’ ”

It wasn’t just local media celebrities that took the plunge. From Argos cheerleaders to Andrew Younghusband, everyday fathers and office workers, anyone who raised at least $1,500  could attempt the challenge.

Many of them even appeared in costume as a way to embrace the idea that for today, they are superheroes.

Though participant Tyler Howe had one wardrobe suggestion to make for those who may be considering it.

“You shouldn’t wear a coconut bra when rappelling down a building,” said Howe, who was dressed in a Hula girl outfit, complete with grass skirt and not much else. “It chafes a bit.”

The idea of rappelling for charity was developed in 2004 by the Canadian Real Estate Investment Trust (CREIT). As a primary sponsor for the event, it was their way of giving back to the communities where they operated their businesses.

And their headquarters at the corner of Bloor and Church Streets was the building that people were rappelling from throughout the day.

“We approached them [Easter Seals] in 2004 with the idea of having people rappel down the side of an office building raising money,” said president of CREIT Stephen Johnson. “I think every business should be involved in giving back and for us it was just a way for us to do it creatively.”

Easter Seals, a charity that supports children with physical disabilities, is celebrating its 90th year. They saw the potential of this event and what it could possibly represent.

“Easter Seals really wanted to do something that is just pushing our own limits because we have to make kids with physical disabilities change their limits,” said Sandra Bellisario, vice-president of development.

“This event was something, for us, made us push our limits and see if we can overcome our challenges because kids with disabilities, they have to overcome challenges everyday.”

Close to $200,000 will be raised for Thursday’s event, money the organization puts towards assistive devices as well as fully accessible summer camps.

Brandon McAuley. (Grace Im/Toronto Observer)

Brandon McAuley, 13, is one of the 2012 Easter Seals Ambassadors, representing 20,000 kids across Ontario with physical disabilities.

He has experienced first-hand how generous donations and fundraisers have helped broaden his experiences.

“Well, Easter Seals means to me camp every summer,” said McAuley, his voice quiet and halting, but also full of confidence. “I’ve been going for four years a camp in Perth that’s fully accessible with activities.”

The event has raised over $7.3 million since its inception and is something that the organizers hope to grow going forward.

It is a unique experience, something different from the usual marathons and charity tele-thons.

But what about those individuals who are afraid of heights?

“You gotta try things,” said Moore. “I guess some people, including my mom, would say this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done but extraordinary experiences are a test and you find out what’s that going to feel like.”

And with a laugh he added, “And now I know! My mouth is dry and I almost tossed my cookies.”

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