National News

Toronto teen in straitjacket for charity

Toronto-based magician/actor Mark Correia, shown in a handout photo, plans to wear a straitjacket for 14 days to raise money for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson
Toronto-based magician/actor Mark Correia, shown in a handout photo, plans to wear a straitjacket for 14 days to raise money for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mark Sommerfeld
— image credit:

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Since strapping on a straitjacket for charity just over a week ago, Toronto-based magician/actor Mark Correia has figured out how to play video games, cook omelettes and pancakes, and do many other everyday tasks using his feet, mouth, teeth and arms.

But there's one thing he can't do that will be first on his agenda when he finally gets out of the restrictive garment on July 22.

"Bathing is the first thing," the 18-year-old Oakville, Ont., native said this week. "It's not as pretty of a stunt as it looks."

Correia put on the straitjacket on July 8 to raise funds for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. His goal is to keep it on for 14 days and raise $25,000 through markcorreia.ca and escapingparkinsons.com. By Tuesday afternoon, he'd raised $5,000.

Video blogs of his journey are on his YouTube channel.

On the final day, he'll attempt to escape from the straitjacket live on Global TV's "The Morning Show." He says if he's successful, he'll also set a world record for the longest amount of time spent in a straitjacket.

A student of the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, Correia said he fell in love with magic at a young age and learned how to escape from a straitjacket from his mentor, illusionist Scott Hammell, when he was 14.

He decided to turn his skills into a fundraising campaign for Fox's foundation because the actor — who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991 — is the "biggest hero in the world" to him.

"The straitjacket is a great metaphor" for the restrictive nature of Parkinson's, said Correia, who's received an email from Fox "saying that this is the most unique way to raise money for his foundation, and he also said he was very excited."

"He also said that I was a little bit crazy for what I was attempting," he added.

Correia lives with his mother, who's been helping him accomplish some tasks. Some of his friends have also been by his side to assist him in his journey.

On Day 7 on Tuesday, he insisted he hadn't cheated nor will he cheat.

But he would never attempt the feat again, he admitted, noting his shoulders are locking up and his hands are getting "really sweaty and dirty" — a problem his helpers have tempered by pumping sanitizer through tubes into the jacket arms.

"The whole thing is getting very frustrating psychologically," he said. "Just trying to do a task for 15 minutes is very gruelling and it feels impossible."

It also comes with risks.

"The blood can pool in my elbows and cause clots, so I have to stretch it out and ... open and close my hands to keep circulation going," he said.

"The muscles freeze up and tense up, so there's a lot of rotating and stretching that we have to do."

Correia said he's been wearing the same T-shirt since his journey began — "I don't smell very good," he admitted — but he has been able to change his pants.

And yes, he is able to go to the washroom. Just how, he won't reveal.

"A good magician never reveals his secrets," he said. "I think you probably don't want to know the answer. There's a way, though."

— Follow @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.

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