Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

This will be a slam dunk for me

Won't be first time I've been all wet

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Forgive me if I sound like a major weenie, but I'm pretty sure this can only end in tears.

I say this because on Thursday, as an "outstanding local celebrity," I will be putting my life on the line at the third annual Shades of Fun Day, a special event in support of the Manitoba division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

The big party, being held in the parking lot behind CNIB headquarters at 1080 Portage Ave. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is intended to promote vision-health awareness and will feature fun activities to give everyone a taste of what it's like to live with vision loss.

There's also going to be barbecued pork on a bun, cotton candy, balloon animals and face painting, so I was pretty excited, which is when the organizers explained my job will be to sit in something called the Pop 'n' Drop, a sort of reverse dunk tank in which people fling baseballs at a target and -- SPLAT! -- burst big water-filled balloons suspended over my head.

As a crusading newspaper columnist with ice water in his veins, I was OK with that, which is when they explained that, to make the whole experience even more educational, the people throwing the balls will be allowed to wear special glasses that simulate different visual impairments. Let's take a moment to review: This Thursday, I will be sitting in a reverse dunk tank in a bathing suit and T-shirt while complete strangers wearing glasses that make it hard for them to see will take turns firing baseballs in the general direction of my head.

Seriously, what could go wrong? That's pretty much what I asked organizer Candace Gower, CNIB's extremely good-natured co-ordinator of volunteer services.

"Ha ha ha!" is what Candace told me in a soothing voice. "Better you than me. That's all I can say. You may have to move quickly, but it shouldn't be too bad."

I told her my doctor, in keeping with standard medical guidelines, recommends I avoid having baseballs come in contact with my brain whenever possible.

"Ha ha ha!" Candace replied. "Don't worry. One of our staff members is a nurse and we'll have a fully stocked first aid kit."

In situations like this, the important safety rule to remember is: If you are going to do something dumb, make sure you talk a friend into doing it with you. So, from a safety perspective, I am comforted by the fact my buddy Big Daddy Tazz, one of Canada's hottest comedians, has agreed to join me.

"I'm totally into that," is what Tazz chirped when I called him. When I warned him about the risk of being beaned on his sizable noggin, he bravely replied: "I'll tense up my facial muscles when I hear the balls coming."

Which is a good idea, but my big concern is some of the people firing balls at us Thursday will possess all the natural athletic ability of a cinder block such as myself.

Let me be honest: I sat in one of these torture tanks a few years back to raise money for this newspaper's United Way campaign.

Getting soaked in icy water wasn't the worst part. The worst part was when I attempted to dunk some of my colleagues and discovered that, in terms of throwing a ball, I have all the accuracy of one of those North Korean missile tests that goes wildly off course and slams into the Sea of Japan.

So I believe I have reason to be mildly alarmed, especially because my wife and her co-workers have pledged to use their lunch hour Thursday to douse me with ice water or, failing that, give me a mild concussion.

Fortunately, the CNIB has kindly arranged lots of other fun activities, including a putting green, a bean-bag toss and an obstacle course, all of which you can enjoy while wearing the special glasses that simulate visual impairments.

Speaking of glasses, the CNIB also sells sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays. Which is great news. On the other hand, I hear they don't do much to protect you from baseballs.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2012 A2

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