Those close to Wendy Babcock say she would never have jumped out of an airplane. But on Sept 12, Babcock’s friend Lia Grimanis says, Babcock was by her side as Grimanis glided to the ground after a skydive north of Toronto.
Taped to Grimanis’s arm during the jump was a picture of the two women, taken on a recent dirt-biking trip. “Here’s to Wendy!” Grimanis shouted after she landed her “honour jump” at the Parachute School.
Babcock, who was found dead Aug 9, was a passionate local advocate for sex workers and a prominent voice for trans rights across Canada. She was well known on Toronto’s frontlines, ensuring that the city’s most marginalized street people didn’t fall through the cracks.
“I wish she was here to see me today,” Grimanis said, choking back tears in a video of the jump. “Wendy would never have gone skydiving with me. She was absolutely terrified of some of the things I do. I was her scariest, most badass friend.”
Like Babcock, Grimanis was once homeless after she fled an abusive home at a young age. She is now a successful Toronto businesswoman and daredevil adventurer. Grimanis runs Up with Women, a non-profit organization she started to help homeless women and children rebuild their lives.
Her skydive kicks off a campaign to raise $10,000 for the new Wendy Babcock education fund for homeless youth.
She says any donations made through Up with Women from Sept 12 to 30 will be matched up to $5,000. All funds raised will be donated to Eva’s Initiatives, the group administering the fund.
“I hope many more homeless women are inspired by her story,” Grimanis says. “Eva’s is the reason Wendy was able to rebuild her life. The fund will help other young women pursue education.”
Before becoming a student at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, a teenaged Babcock was a homeless sex worker.
Since her death, Babcock’s friends have mobilized to organize a fitting tribute. A memorial will take place Sept 15, beginning at Allan Gardens at 6pm, followed by a celebration at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre at 9pm.
Grimanis says there will be an aboriginal ceremony, singing, a slide show of Babcock’s life and some drumming at Allan Gardens. The Buddies portion of the memorial will include personal stories about Babcock and artistic tribute performances. “It’s been absolutely amazing how everyone has passionately and aggressively come together and organized. It’s going to be an emotional time.
“This is not how her story was supposed to end, and we just want to be sure her story doesn’t die with her.”
The event at Buddies is free, but organizers are asking people to make a pay-what-you-can donation for a memorial Allan Gardens park bench and plaque.