Garrison store going to new heights for children’s charity

Save-On Foods employees raising cash for BC Children’s Hospital, by throwing managers from airplane

Have you ever fantasized about throwing your boss from an airplane?

Well, for those hard workers at the Garrison Save-On-Foods, that dream is becoming a reality. But it’s all in good fun. In fact, it was one of their bosses’ idea.

Joanne Young, a store supervisor, wanted to do something really memorable as a store-wide fundraiser this year. The whole Save-On-Foods chain is dedicated to fundraising, and each location challenges its staff to find ways to give back to the community. The BC Children’s Hospital Foundation is an organization they often go to bat for, and Young wanted to really make a difference.

So, she suggested to her store manager, Jolene Watsyk, that they get pushed out of a perfectly-good airplane.

“I’m scared right out of my skull,” said Young, despite being the impetus behind the idea. How scared exactly? She admits she gets nervous seeing people climbing the store ladders.

But that may also tell you a little about how competitive she is. Young used to work at the downtown Chilliwack shop, which has raised huge amounts of cash for charity over the years. Now that she’s at the Garrison location, she’s brought that friendly competitive spirit with her.

So from now until the big day, which is set for the weekend after the May long weekend, the two are referred to as the “Jumping Jos.” A sign at the front of the store is keeping track of donations coming in. They first hoped to raise $5,000, but easily met that target early. Now, they’re edging toward their newest goal of $10,000, and already surpassing the $8,000 mark.

“And we’ll keep fundraising right until the May long weekend,” Young says.

The Jumping Jos reward the top fundraisers in the store for their efforts, and so far those top two are Natalie Natola and Ann Range. They make sure to ask every single customer if they’d like to round up their total for a good cause. And most often, people are happy to when they hear about the big jump.

Neither of the Jumping Jos have ever done anything like this before, they say. And as first-time jumpers, they’ll be relying on the bravado of more experienced jumpers they’ll be attached to. That’s known as a tandem jump, says Debbie Harper, co-owner of Skydive Vancouver, in Abbotsford.

That’s who will take the Jos up in the air. And they have plenty of experience taking first-time jumpers up in the air, and sending them down again.

“Our staff is so experienced,” Harper says, noting that their chief instructor has well over 16,000 jumps, and other instructors have over 10,000 as well. “They’re very good with people, making them feel comfortable and relaxed.”

And jumping out of an airplane is fun, she insists, especially for those who are the most frightened.

“The more apprehensive they are, the more excited (they are) and more of an achievement it is for them,” she says. While the regular jumpers may enjoy the activity and even take it in stride, it’s that first jump that is often the most exhilarating.

As a family-owned company, they love being a part of the fundraising jumps that come to their airfield, including the Cyrus Centre, MS Society and cancer fundraisers.

“There are a few of those charities that are very close to our hearts that we’ve been affected by, we really enjoy helping them out,” Harper says.

Skydive Vancouver will be recording the jump, and the Jumping Jos have enlisted co-worker Michelle Symington as a ground crew of their own to encourage them on jump day.

“I’ll watch and wait calmly at the bottom,” Symington jokes.

And while it’s a big leap to be taking, the women say it’s a risk worth taking.

“Someone always knows someone” who has had an experience in Children’s Hospital, Young says. “And for those kids, you’ll do anything.”

To help them reach, or even exceed, their goal of $10,000 visit the Garrison Save-On-Foods location and make a donation either at the till or in the water bottle at the front of the store.

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