Just another challenge in the life of everywoman Colleen Griganavicius occurred over the weekend of Sept. 17 and 18, 2011, when she and other volunteers altered their atmosphere to take the Skyline Plunge. The courageous troupe raised more than $125,000 for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHA) by rappeling off the Wit Hotel in Chicago. Did they do it to wear an Over the Edge sticker on a helmet? A new pair of athletic shoes? Sticking straight out from the top of a building, parallel to the ground, pouncing down the side of the building, one would certainly need good tread.
Like many others in the Skyline Plunge, Mrs. G., as students at York Community High School in Elmhurst call her, did it out of love for someone with respiratory disease. Friends of hers who have a son and a daughter with cystic fibrosis, one of whom just had a lung transplant; and another friend with Chronic Obstructive Pulminary Disease (COPD) were the driving forces for Mrs. G.'s desire to achieve the descent down the side of a building.
She and a buddy had signed up for the Skyline Plunge even though they were both scared stiff of heights. When they were put on a waiting list, Mrs. G. had barely breathed “Phew!” when two days later they were accepted. “Ok, we’re gonna do it, I’m all ready,” she said. In the meantime, her partner bailed. After a few choice words, Mrs. G. took a deep breath and said, “I’m just gonna climb down that building myself.” Onward, to theWit, to be strung up.
Mrs. G. took immediately to the aerial atmosphere, feeling so comfortable as to wave to guests looking out at her from their hotel rooms as she went by.
“Besides having my four children, it was the most exhilarating thing that I’ve ever done,” she said. Is she no longer afraid of heights? Yep. Does she feel good about volunteering for such a cause? Yes, she said many observers below were carrying their own oxygen tanks, and one woman refused paramedics’ attempts for assistance in order to keep watching her sponsor scale down the side of the building.
Mrs. G. didn’t stop there. She helped bring other rappelers up the building. She also volunteered at LuxeHome's “Chill” fundraiser, held Nov. 10, 2011, to benefit RHA, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO), and the Lynn Sage Foundation. After she checked in guests at the Merchandise Mart venue, she was able to roam the different rooms where chefs and wine stations were set up. “It’s a great event to get a group together and go see all of the rooms,” she marveled.
Since listing rappeling theWit as an incomparable moment in life, Mrs. G. burst out, “No, wait! I take that back …” Not surprisingly, there had been a new development. Mrs. G. embodies the quote by Charles Darwin at the end of her emails, about adapting to change.
Having gone through a difficult divorce and dealing with a major illness of a family member, Mrs. G. decided this fall that she had to move finally from the family home she loved, into a small apartment with her daughter. She received some unforeseen but inspirational help from her friends, she said.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was moving. I just put on some big red gloves, and borrowed my girlfriend’s truck. My family, my brother, and the boys in detention at school were going to help me,” she said.
Mrs. G. works with various students groups at York, in Elmhurst, as Learning Adjustment Center supervisor. Of course she had already developed a rapport with them. She is around the campus some nights, too, to assist a Sketch Comedy Group, something she seems to excel at herself, and as club sponsor of the Challenge Day Committee, a group of students whose job it is to provide encouragement for other students. Security is one of her three extra jobs. She works at games and other events to help ensure student and patron safety.
It seems Mrs. G. is one who just grabs the flag and runs with it.
That’s why when a bunch of her girlfriends, all in their ‘50’s showed up to help move, along with her 90-year-old mother, trucks, pizzas and a cooler, Mrs. G. said it was even more inspirational to her than rappeling theWit.
“They took my house I’d lived in for 24 years, and in two moves, loaded it into a two-bedroom apartment. I loved my house, and didn’t want to move,” she shared. “It started out to be a very sad day, but turned out to be one of the most beautiful days of my life.”
Mrs. G. raised $1000 in pledges for her Skyline Plunge debut. The next Skyline Plunge will take place on May 6, 2012.