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Billboard Rescue participants brave chilly weather

Annual event, celebrating its 25th anniversary, is the United Way of Thunder Bay's single-largest fundraiser each year.

THUNDER BAY – The wind was whipping and the resulting cool breeze kept teeth chattering, but the United Way of Thunder Bay’s 25th annual Billboard Rescue didn’t skip a beat on Thursday.

Tom Pugliese of the Independent Resource Living Centre rode the scissor lift for the 10th time in 2017, helping raise much needed cash for an organization that provides much of the funding that keeps his workplace in operation year round.

“As an organization we’ve always been aligned with the United Way’s values, so I think it’s important to support local initiative,” Pugliese said.

“We have a vested interest because we’re funded, but honestly we love the United Way so we take part every year.”

The weather, with its off and on pattern of rain, was hardly noticeable, he said.

“Today was a little chillier than some years, but it was dry, which was a nice switch. We’ve been in every kind of weather possible.”

The goal, though not official, was to beat last year’s $125,000 total.

Participants were asked to raise money ahead of the event, then close out their pledge requests by phoning friends, colleagues and families to donate to the cause before they could be lowered back down to the ground.

The quicker, the better, Pugliese said.

“I think all of us have an innate fear of heights, which is always a joke that we make when we’re asking for pledges,” he said.

“We always make the point that if you pledge us, we’ll go up because we are legitimately all fearful of heights.”

Co-chairs Michael and Kelly Gallagher said the impact of the Billboard Rescue is almost beyond words.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We raise a lot of money through this and super important for us to hit our goal and to remind everybody about the United Way Community Fund and the 59 programs that we support in Thunder Bay,” Kelly Gallagher said.

Her husband couldn’t agree more.

“This is one of our most important events because it kind of kicks off the season and helps everyone in the community get involved – corporate teams, individual teams and individuals giving pledges to help raise the money to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

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