Why these people have been living on top of flagpoles in downtown Toronto


These two Torontonians took camping to new heights, living on top of flagpoles for 100 hours to help raise money for Type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.

Chris Overholt and Vanessa Oliver are two of five Canadians who took on the JDRF’s Let’s Make History Again Flagpole 100 challenge, living in small structures on top of a 40 foot tall flagpole for 100 hours. The JDRF is the world’s largest non-profit organization focused on Type 1 diabetes research.

The challenge is to honor the 100 year anniversary of the discovery of insulin in Canada. The goal is to raise $15 million to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Chris Overholt waves from a tent on top of a flagpole at the Toronto-Dominion Centre.

“Insulin is a lifesaver, but it’s certainly not a cure,” said Vanessa Oliver, who was diagnosed with T1D at the age of six. Oliver spoke to the Star from atop a flagpole on hospital row near Toronto General Hospital.

“The thing about insulin is that too little insulin stands to kill you, and too much insulin stands to kill you… people with Type 1 are making insulin dosing decisions seven to 10 times a day, every day. That’s a lot to carry,” Oliver said.

When Oliver was diagnosed, his father Peter Oliver wanted to help find a cure. He lived on top of a flagpole for a week, raising $250,000 for Type 1 research. Peter Oliver is a co-founder of Oliver & Bonacini and a longtime supporter of the JDRF.

Vanessa Oliver has been living on top of a flagpole outside of the UHN (Toronto General Hospital) on University Avenue to raise money for Type 1 diabetes research.

Now, 32 years later, his daughter Vanessa is taking on the same challenge.

“This has been one of the most impactful experiences of my life,” Oliver said, adding, “we’ve really brought together the Type 1 diabetes community from across the country. I’ve received tons of messages from people I don’t know impacted with this disease, showing such incredible gratitude and appreciation for what we’re doing.”

Chris Overholt was inspired by Oliver’s story, and wanted to get involved. During the process, his young cousin Noah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

The challenge is to honor the 100 year anniversary of the discovery of insulin in Canada.  The goal is to raise $15 million to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Family dinner restaurants like Denny’s and Moxies provided both with breakfast, lunch and dinner. To relieve themselves, washrooms were provided, including a camping toilet. All sitters remained in their structures for a hundred consecutive hours, the Star learned.

Overholt’s flagpole is located in the financial district near the Toronto-Dominion Center on King Street West.

“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my lifetime. It’s been really special to be connected to this community of people,” said Overholt.

“I think Noah’s diagnosis is a pretty strong indication that you know, it can affect all of us at any moment,” he told the Star.

Chris Overholt and Vanessa Oliver have been living on top flagpoles for 100 hours as part of a Canada-wide fundraiser to raise $15 million to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Nearly $11 million has already been raised so far.

With the help of funding, stem cell therapy and CRISPR genetic editing technologies, there are clinical trials underway for the prevention of Type 1 diabetes.

donations can be made online and all donations will be matched by the Temerty Foundation.

“It’s really made me realize I think after love, hope is the most powerful emotion. This has given our community of 300,000 type one diabetics across Canada, an unbelievable amount of hope with every single dollar that’s been raised,” Oliver said.

The event wrapped up at 3 pm on Friday.

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