Daring to leap for youth

Maple Ridge man repels 19 storeys as part of Dare to Leap fundraiser

Fundraising event on Shaw Tower consisted of repelling down tower.

Fundraising event on Shaw Tower consisted of repelling down tower.

For Jonathan Willcocks, life as a teenager in England was heading in the wrong direction.

At 14, he found himself spiraling downward. But his father knew there was a good person under the rough exterior, and he took him for a three-week Outward Bound camping and hiking expedition in northern Scotland.

And the first flicker of hope was ignited.

“That was a big turning point in my life. My self-esteem went up,” recalls Willcocks.

But he wasn’t out of the woods yet and his parents decided to take drastic measures. Still at risk, he was sent packing to live with his grandfather in British Columbia.

Quickly, the flicker would become a flame.

“My grandfather ruled the house with an iron fist,” explained Willcocks.

He was quickly exposed to extracurricular activities, as his grandfather wouldn’t settle for idle time. Or freeloading, for that matter. Willcocks was paying room and board by the time he was in Grade 10.

“It wasn’t much, but it was the principle behind it,” he explained.

By the time he graduated high school and went to the University of Victoria, Willcocks’ life was trending in the right direction. But he never forgot where it was headed.

When he saw an ad for a job as a counsellor at a camp for young offenders, he jumped at the opportunity.

For eight years he dedicated his life to helping kids who were, in essence, like him – kids with promise, but on the wrong path.

At 26, he decided he needed to do more. That’s when he started Pinnacle Pursuits, a local company specializing in team-building events and meaningful charity-challenge fundraising initiatives.

And Willcocks’ latest initiative with Pinnacle Pursuits is one close to his heart. The Maple Ridge resident joined more than 60 people in rappelling down 19 storeys of the Shaw Tower, Vancouver’s third largest building, as part of the inaugural Dare to Leap fundraiser in support of Outward Bound Canada’s new urban youth adventure program, April 16.

As a past participant of Outward Bound, Willcocks experienced the benefits of this type of programming. Normally, he’s too busy with the logistics of running the actual event to be able to take the time to participate. But because of his affection for Outward Bound, he’s cleared his schedule for the chance to spend an hour scaling down the tower.

“I made sure I was one of the first one to sigh up,” he laughed. “It’s a half-hour out of my event-day and I get to give back and raise some money for a cause where my heart is.”

Outward Bound Canada has spent the past five decades using the natural world as a teacher to motivate and cultivate resilience, leadership, connections and compassion, said Willcocks.

He said the philosophy of Pinnacle Pursuits is to create a greater connection between a company’s employees and the charities they support.

Instead of the traditional gala or golf tournament, his company uses events like the 200-foot rappel to help build both personal goals and culture.

“Work gives a larger perspective of the why,” said Willcocks.  “Why are you coming to work? Why are you working for this company? What are we all about, and literally, where’s your life going? I think deep down people are asking those questions and people have a real tendency to want to work with other people that brings them that level of happiness.”

So by creating these unique fundraising events, his company does more than just put a name on a cheque. It creates a buzz in the community and a brand around business ethics.

“I think people are always searching for meaning in their work, their life, and looking for ways in staying inspired,” said Willcocks.

He said his company does about six major fundraising events a year in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, and he hears the same thing from the more than 250,000 employees his company has come in contact with since it opened its doors in 1997.

“Their draw to their work, more than the name above the door, is the people inside the building,” said Willcocks. “In a time where we have more friends but less relationships because of things like Facebook, I think that is absolutely key. And at the end of the day, we all love to help and give. We just need to be asked.”


• For more information about the event go to www.outwardbound.ca/daretoleap.