When Donna and John Roach talk about plans to mark John’s 50th birthday, there are decidedly different tones in their voices.
Donna can barely contain her excitement; John delivers his opinions with a hint of sarcasm.
“Can’t wait to throw myself off a 20-storey building dressed as Batman,” he said last week, fixing his gaze on Donna as she beamed at the thought.
But while John isn’t looking forward to the drive into downtown Vancouver to complete the feat on Sept. 13 and he’s “not fussed” about the 20 storeys, he quickly accepted it as a fait accompli. The cause it will support – children with physical and/or cognitive disabilities, through Easter Seals BC – made that part easy.
“As soon as I said to him what it’s for, he said, ‘that’s that,’” Donna said.
The rappelling event, dubbed Drop Zone Vancouver, is in its 11th year. Thrill-seekers from across the Lower Mainland are challenged to raise a minimum of $1,000 to participate. Last year, 65 people signed on and more than $188,000 was raised.
According to information online, donations in support of John’s participation had reached $950 as of this week. Donna said friends and colleagues haven’t hesitated to pitch in; one donated $500, and she’s confident the $1,000 mark will be reached before event day.
Many are also taking time off work to watch John’s descent.
Donna said the idea for the birthday gift hit while they watching an episode of Quantico, a TV series on FBI recruits training in Virginia.
The students were practising rappelling down a building and “John piped up, ‘love to do something like that,’” Donna said. “That’s where the seed was sown.”
After discovering Drop Zone while researching opportunities, the plan was sealed.
“I look at (what Easter Seals does) and I just think it’s brilliant,” she said. “This is going to help other children… it’s a really, really great cause.”
Donna described her husband as “a daredevil.”
His background is in motorcycle racing – he holds “four or five” titles in the sport in the U.K, including a 1993 British championship, and has always enjoyed “living on the edge.”
While John has also always found a way to make Donna’s milestone birthdays special, he said he’s going to make good use of the next two years to plot, er, plan for her 50th.
It’s “going to be good,” he said.
He is not the only Peninsula resident preparing for the 20-storey descent, however.
A South Surrey real estate agent is gearing up to face her fear of heights head-on for the fourth time, as a returning participant of the Drop Zone challenge.
Tracey Ellis said she got involved because she likes to try things once. She became hooked after learning more about the cause it supports.
“When I think of these kids, every day they have a challenge to overcome,” she said.
“Certainly, I can go over a railing for them.”
Ellis, 51, described her first foray over the building’s edge as too scary to face.
“I couldn’t walk up to the railing (facing) forward,” she said.
Now, “I wish it was a taller building.”
She described the people involved with Easter Seals as “so passionate,” and the work they do as “absolutely amazing.”
Getting involved in Drop Zone also led Ellis to volunteer with Easter Seals. Now, she’s challenging other Peninsula real estate agents to contribute to the cause.
“Just to donate and come out and be a part of it,” she said. “Put a positive spin on the real estate market, just to show that we do care.”
To donate to either participant, visit thedropzone.ca