Red Deer’s Joe Hittel, known as Leprechaun Joe from the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Rope for Hope event, is turning on his Christmas lights during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

Red Deer man turns on Christmas lights amid COVID-19 pandemic

85-year-old Joe Hittel hopes to give people ‘something else to think about’

A Red Deer senior is using Christmas lights to take people’s minds off the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe Hittel has raised thousands of dollars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation the past two years by participating in the Rope For Hope event, which features people rappelling down the side of the Stantec building downtown.

Now, the 85-year-old is turning on the Christmas lights at his home to help people in a different way.

“I want to give people who drive by something else to think about,” Hittel said.

“Hopefully, it can help people think positive, instead of only thinking about the (COVID-19) virus, and spread some love around.

“It would be nice to see more of this. It’d be like Christmas in March.”

The Red Deerian heard about many people in Sylvan Lake turning on their Christmas lights during the pandemic and thought he should do the same.

READ MORE: Christmas returns to Sylvan Lake as light displays turned on again

Hittel said following the news during the pandemic has been a little worrying.

“But I’m feeling good. I have no symptoms. I know my family has been phoning me every day, checking up and seeing if I’m OK,” he said.

“I’m at home. There’s not too much you can do, eh? I had a clinic appointment the other day, but that was about it. Other than that, I’ve been at home.”

Many in the community have been helping others throughout the pandemic, Hittel said, adding the least he can do is turn on his Christmas lights.

“There are so many people coming out and helping those who have been laid off and all that. There are so many of them and I have family in the same boat.

“Hopefully, they all get help from the government or find something to do and make themselves busy. Even if they’re stuck at home, maybe they can get some work done that they haven’t got done for a while.”

Hittel dresses up as a leprechaun for the Rope for Hope event, which is scheduled for this summer. He has raised about $15,000 so far – his goal is to raise $85,000 in celebration of his 85th birthday.

“I’m hoping it’s not going to be cancelled (due to the virus). We’ve got so many kids out there who need their wishes granted. I think it’s 240 right in our area.”

Hittel won’t be going to businesses during the pandemic to collect money, but donations can still be made online at makeawishca.donordrive.com/participant/JoeHittel.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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