This weekend, an area chaplain will need all the support she can get. Even though she is terrified of heights, she will climb a 75-foot ladder on a fire engine.

Patricia Clearence, who serves as the chaplain for the Centennial Fire District (CFD) and Lexington Fire Department, will climb the ladder as part of a “FUNdraiser” to raise funds for 4-year-old Madelyn, daughter of Danielle and Jay Latcham.

“It is going to be a big thing to get the on-ground support cheering me on to take another step and make it to the top. That shows how someone can overcome a fear, the power that we have as individuals to come together as a group,” Clearence explained.

The Quad Community Press first met the Latcham family earlier this summer, before publication of the article, “Medical alert dog will bring peace of mind to Lino Lakes family” July 2. Madelyn has adrenal insufficiency (AI), a tumor on her hypothalamus and hypopituitarism. These conditions cause Maddy to crash without warning, which is where a medical alert dog can come in handy. During a crash, a person can become unconscious, have seizures and potentially die. The dog can sense when a crash is about to happen.

The family's medical alert dog, a labradoodle named Mac, is currently training with Beverly Schwartz, a trainer in Texas. In addition to $4,000 for Mac, training will cost another $15,000. The family still needs to raise about $5,000.

Clearence came up with the idea to climb a ladder as a fundraiser while she was talking to Danielle. “I joked about how I should sit on top of a ladder truck until the money comes in and then I will get down,” she said. She approached CFD Chief Harlan Lundstrom, who she said was supportive of the effort.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, Clearence will climb the ladder on the aerial engine in front of CFD Station 1 in Circle Pines.

“It is all about how we can come together as a community and really make a positive difference and a positive impact,” she said. “Who knows where this will go and how it will influence somebody else in another community to do something like this?”

The goal is to raise $5,000 for the Latcham family. Each time money is placed into a boot, Clearence will climb another step higher. She will likely need some words of encouragement too, in addition to the donation. Over 20 years ago, Clearence attempted to climb a ladder on a fire engine and only made it four rungs before she requested help to get down.

“Let's show not only our community, but others as well, how we rally together and support each other,” Clearence said.

The family was planning to go pick up Mac in Texas this fall, but that will likely be pushed back until after the holidays. It all depends on Mac's training and when he is ready to aid Madelyn.

“I don't even think I can put it into words about how grateful our family is for everything the community is doing for us. It is a very humbling experience,” Danielle said. “It does reassure my faith in humanity; with all the negative things going on, it is so nice to have people come together in a time of need. I still think that we are in shock over all of this.”


Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or

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