An Ontario man with cerebral palsy is planning to rappel up and down a building in his wheelchair like a superhero, so he can raise funds for children with physical disabilities.
Andrew Nielsen credits the Easter Seals with providing him with new wheelchairs throughout his childhood, as well as making it possible to attend their camps in the summer. To show his appreciation, he’s launched a fundraising campaign in an effort to give back to the charity that’s given him so much.
“I love rappelling down a building in my wheelchair,” Nielsen, who is non-verbal, writes in his fundraising pledge. “I feel so alive! I feel SUPER! The only thing that feels better is knowing that I'm helping kids like me get what they need to make their lives better and easier.”
This will be the sixth time Nielsen will rappel down the side of a building, a process that involves descending down the structure while strapped into harnesses and ropes.
Please sponsor me.
I have cerebral palsy, speak with a device & use a ♿️ for mobility.
I’m rappelling ⬇️ a building in my ♿️ to help kids with physical disabilities like me to get the equipment & support they need to reach their full potential.
DONATE➡️ https://t.co/T3STvF781x pic.twitter.com/xanADTjgPa
— Andrew Nielsen ♿️⬇️🏢 (@AndrewONielsen) May 9, 2023
Lauren Squizzato, community engagement manager with Easter Seals Ontario, says Nielsen is a top fundraiser for the charity, raising between $20,000 to $50,000 each year.
“He’s a brave superhero,” she tells Yahoo News Canada.
Since his electric wheelchair is so heavy, Nielsen always goes before the other fundraisers and rappels from the ground up. Once he reaches the top of the building, he then goes down. Typically. someone who's going to rappel gets into a harness from the top of the building and then goes down. A remote access team works with Nielsen through the whole process.
“We do have a lot of people go in their wheelchairs or their walkers, with the equipment, but standard wheelchairs are a lot lighter,” Squizzato explains.
The Drop Zone fundraisers have been taking place since 2007. Nielsen’s big drop will take place on October 4, along a 20-storey building in downtown Toronto, located at 175 Bloor St. E. Anyone can take part in the event, from group teams or individuals with connections to the cause. Participants receive training on the day of the fundraiser.
He’s a brave superhero.
“We try not to say no depending on what your abilities are,” Squizzato says.
Nielsen's goal is to raise $20,000 this time around, which will help with the cost of rappelling, as well as provide supplies and services for kids with physical disabilities. These include mobility and accessibility equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, ramps and lifts, as well as toileting aids and grants for incontinence supplies. The fundraising efforts will also help send kids to camps that specialize in activities for children with disabilities, like high ropes courses, indoor climbing walls, sailing, canoeing, kayaking and many other sporting and camp activities.
Squizzato says Nielsen is passionate about his support for Easter Seals and has been very active on Twitter in his effort to raise awareness and donations. In turn, he’s attracted support and funds from Canadian celebrities like Tom Cochrane and Bif Naked.
But Squizzato says Nielsen's biggest support and best friend is a camp counsellor he met at Easter Seals camp, who is with him for all his drops.
“He’s at every event with him,” she says. “It’s a nice full circle story.”