2017-08-11 / Neighbors

Make a wish—and take a leap

Charity goes to new heights to raise funds
By Becca Whitnall


SLOW AND STEADY—Wish Kid Eric Anderson, 17, of Camarillo rappels down a six-story building on Saturday as part of a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties. 
Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers SLOW AND STEADY—Wish Kid Eric Anderson, 17, of Camarillo rappels down a six-story building on Saturday as part of a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties. Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers While some charities go to great lengths in their fundraising efforts, Make-A-Wish has gone to great heights.

The Tri-Counties chapter of the national wish-granting organization usually helps children with life-threatening medical issues to live out their wildest dreams, but on Aug. 4 and 5 it gave volunteers the opportunity to live out one of their own dreams, or to face their fears, all in the name of raising money for Make-A-Wish. Their challenge: Rappel down from the top of a six-story building.

“It’s a unique opportunity to fundraise,” said Dore Baker, who raised more pledge money than any other participant. “There are a lot of walks or runs out there, and this is a little different and it gives you something to talk about.”


GOING DOWN?—Christina Vanarelli of Ventura rappels down the National University building in Oxnard during the Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties fundraising event Over the Edge on Aug. 5. GOING DOWN?—Christina Vanarelli of Ventura rappels down the National University building in Oxnard during the Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties fundraising event Over the Edge on Aug. 5. Although it was Baker’s first time rappelling, the secretary of the chapter’s board of directors had completed a solo jump on her first skydiving outing a few years ago, so she’s no stranger to thrill-seeking.

“I don’t have a fear of heights or anything,” said the Westlake Village real estate broker, who raised nearly $3,300.

The event, dubbed Over the Edge, took place at the National University building in Oxnard. From the ground, the curved, blue-green mirrored-glass facade seems to stretch to the sky, though it’s much shorter than Oxnard’s tallest building, the Topa Tower, located just an exit down the 101 Freeway.

“We don’t have that many multistory buildings in the area,” said chapter CEO Pattie Mullins, explaining how the organization chose the 1000 Town Center Drive location. “We only have like three, and their owners were great and love Make-A-Wish, but they wanted someone else to try (out) the event first.”

The owners of the National University building said yes.

The rappelling idea came from a Make-A-Wish chapter in Texas, which saw the lure of giving donors the chance to play Spider-Man.

“We wanted something that would increase our visibility in the county and we wanted to challenge ourselves in the same way our kids challenge themselves,” Mullins said.

It was that thinking that convinced Charleen Morla, the chapter’s community relations manager, to join in the fun.

“At first I was afraid of heights,” she said before going on to talk about a child named Saul who she said is courageously fighting for his health. “If Saul can face the challenges he does, what’s me going down this building for the rest of the kids?”

Morla said most Over the Edge participants, about 65 in all, heard about the challenge through social media. As one person would post something about taking part, others would want to join in. Entire teams— like the county’s information technology services department, the Filipino American Council of Ventura County and even one named Scared of Heights— joined individual fundraisers in raising more than $53,000.

The Tri-County chapter was founded in 1985 and serves Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The average total cost of granting a wish is just under $10,000, generally part cash and part donated goods and services.

“We grant all sorts of wishes— anything from a new puppy to a play set to a trip to New York for a Sweet 16,” Mullins said. “Anything they want, we try to make happen.”

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