|Gardner to spread wings for charity|
|Local Content - Local News|
|Written by Stan Ashbee|
|Wednesday, 30 January 2013 18:07|
Look up in the sky, its a bird, its a plane, no its...Wings of Kilimanjaro paragliders, but you would have to be in Tanzania, Africa to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event.
But the world will be watching Feb. 5, as Canadians, philanthropists and thrill-seekers from across the globe take part in this charitable initiative that includes Robert Gardner, a former Taber W.R. Myers graduate.
Gardner was born in Taber in 1957 and the former Taberite lived in town with his family until he was 23, when he moved to Calgary.
“I graduated from W.R. Myers in 1975. I'm proud to say that Taber is my hometown. My parents have both lived in Taber their whole lives, born in 1933 and 1935. I have lived in Calgary since the time I was married in 1981. My wife Natalie and I own and operate The Hitch Shop. We have three children and two grandchildren,” said Gardner.
Gardner’s parents are Ella May and David.
Ella May is supportive of her son’s high-flying pursuits but that doesn’t necessarily mean she was totally sold on the idea, at first.
“I always wonder how safe it is,” said Ella May.
“It’s kind of funny, Robert said ‘We’re going to four or five airports in the area. We plan to fly and land at one of these airports.’ I said ‘Why are you landing in an airport?’ and he said “Well otherwise we’d be landing in the jungle and a lion might eat us,” joked Ella May. So how did Ella May finally accept the fact her son was embarking on the adventure of a lifetime?
“I was looking at a video and it showed all the different paragliders and I thought ‘Oh they’re going to crash into each other’ and this was at 11 at night and I’m not sleeping very well at night. So then finally I went back to bed at about 3 a.m. and I dreamt that I was Mary Poppins with my umbrella and I did it just fine. After that I decided to relax, he’s a big boy, if that’s what he wants to do,” said Ella May.
Gardner started paragliding 18 years ago and has competed nationally and internationally in paragliding competitions and has flown in the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica, Columbia and Brazil. Gardner left for Africa on Jan. 25.
“We hope to fly our paraglider off the summit, 19,200 feet approximately Feb. 5,” said Gardner.
Ella May said to prepare for the feat, her son has been sleeping on his back deck at home, along with vigorous hiking practice-runs to properly gear up for the actual climb and flight.
“He’s done long flights previously in Golden all the way to Fairmont Hot Springs and that’s a long way because all you are flying with are air currents.”
Ella May added each participant needs to raise their own money including the cost of their flight. Each participant is also committed to raise funds for three different charities in Africa.
According to www.wingsofkilimanjaro.com, the climb and paraglide mission, something that is usually banned by the Tanzanian Government, will raise over $1 million U.S. for three charities making a difference on the ground in Eastern Africa; Plant With Purpose, WorldServe International and One Difference.
A team of more than 1,000 porters, guides, and crew will support the 100 plus adventurers.
The group will spend seven days making the trek to the 19,340-foot peak where the pilots will launch.
Participants, or pilots, commit to raising a minimum of $5,000 in U.S. dollars towards the charity fund, and have to pass a rigorous application process.
Over 300 pilots have registered their interest from over 60 countries from as far afield as Russia to Nepal from Singapore to Peru.
So far, over 100 pilots have been accepted as Official Wings of Kilimanjaro Pilots.
This remarkable record-breaking event will be communicated to the world via international sport, lifestyle and news media coverage; alongside global distribution of content via online, cable and network platforms, including popular video distribution and social media sites (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc).
A feature film will also be made, following the stories of select pilots and team members.
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