Over the Edge for Special Olympics was one of the most terrifying and challenging things I’ve ever done – BUT – by far, one of the most rewarding. Ever thought – “I’d love to climb down the side of that building 30 story building” while walking by the tallest skyscraper in your city. Yeah, me neither – Until I heard about Over the Edge. Over the Edge is an an amazing fundraising event put on by the Special Olympics all over the country. Basically, each participant raises at least $1,000 dollars for the Special Olympics. With that goal met, you get to rappel down a skyscraper! You get the chance to show the athletes how much you appreciate their bravery in everything they do by testing your own bravery! Sounds crazy but SO worth it. If you don’t read this whole post, here’s my advice – DO IT!
So why did I do it? and why should you?
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Special Olympics organization. They light up the eyes of so many kids, adults, and families dealing with diseases and disabilities that I am so unfamiliar with, yet so aware of. I was also inspired by my dad who spent one night a week every winter teaching special olympics athletes to ski for a while. There is one boy who really inspired my passion for this cause – He is autistic but not let that get in his way. I’m honestly not even sure if he ever participated in Special Olympics, but he could have.
This guy is about as sweet as they get. He never walked by without saying hello and still today, after not seeing him in at least six years, I still hear from him. I get a facebook message telling me to be careful because there is snow headed my way , while I’m 6 states away. He never misses my birthday. When he hasn’t heard from me in a while, he checks in, just to be sure I’m good. It is these little things that make me realize and truly appreciate how thoughtful, sweet, and smart him, and so many others are with similar disabilities.
This part was fun! I’ve never loved asking for money but when you have a cause, it is so easy! You are not begging for petty cash. You are asking people to care and take action on a cause – in this case, that cause was Special Olympics. When you sign up, you get all set up with a site that makes donating a breeze for those that want to contribute. I wrote a little something – that sounded a lot like what you just read – on my page and shared it everywhere I could. The generosity I saw every time I mentioned the event was inspiring. It took less that a few weeks to reach my goal and I didn’t stop there. Tracking my progress became a habit and I was surprised every time I logged in. The minimum fundraising level to Rappel is $1,000 but if you do sign up, I 100% encourage you not to stop there!
Over the Edge – The Event Day!
So I ran into a bit of trouble with my event. The wind, on the already rescheduled day of the event, was so bad that they were only repelling down a couple stories as opposed to the original 30. Since I wasn’t able to make in on that rescheduled date, the team was kind enough to let me hop on the schedule for the nearby Charlotte event.
We got to Charlotte bright and early on that November morning and walked to the event site where there were already people rappelling. I look up and watched and immediately told the 5 people I was with I couldn’t do it. No way, no how. I like to think of myself as pretty adventurous, but truth be told, the second I actually face the adventure, I FREAK OUT. So in true Sara fashion, I freaked out just watching these people. My big mistake was getting there too early and having the time to psych myself out! So we walked around the city and killed a couple hours before it was my time to check-in. At that point I was far past freaked out to the point of terrified. But – I checked in and sat there waiting for them to call my name.
Once you check in, you’re escorted up a few floors by a couple athletes and a volunteer. At that point, you put on all of your gear. This is no joke. The amount of equipment you put on weighs at least 10 pounds and by the time you’re all strapped up you feel like you could survive hanging off the side of 30 foot bridge (which is perfect because you are about to dangle off of a 30 story building). Equipment included a good amount of straps, and clips, a walky talky and a helmet conveniently equipped with a go pro mount.
From there, we were led to staircase where a trained pro gave us a quick demo. We hooked up all of our carabiners and practiced exactly what we were going to do about 10 minutes later. (This is when the nerves really started to kick in). We had to squeeze one clip while letting a rope slide and if we squeezed it too hard, the clip would lock. It seemed like a lot to remember – and maybe not enough practice. But I trusted them.
We took the elevator up to the roof where we were greeted by another excited group of volunteers. At this point, there was one group ahead of us and I knew my mom and friends had been walking around the city. I snagged a volunteer’s phone and them them know I was headed down next with a serious shake in my voice. When it was our turn, I climbed through the little hole that led to the roof’s ledge. Volunteers guided me as I crawled toward them with some sort of nervous grin on my face to get set-up. They hooked all kinds of things up, and got me safety checked. At that point I was just trying to remember to breath.
Over the Edge I Went!
With my safety confirmed, they encouraged me to move towards the edge and eventually, sit back. By sit back, I mean hover your entire body off the edge of the roof! It was a now or never type feeling and honestly, never crossed my mind. At that second though, the announcers said my name. That “why” I told you I had to write before we started. That was what I was hearing. The announcer was reading my exact words as my family, friends, and an enthusiastic group of athletes cheered me on from 18 stories below. That was just enough to get me “over the edge”. See what I did there? This is when they snagged that picture of me smiling like a just won a million bucks – Yep, the one after the photo of me looking absolutely terrified clenching the edge of the roof.
Once I sat back , I had to remember what I had learned back when I practiced. What seemed overwhelming then, was nothing now. I started to squeeze my hook and let the rope slip through my hands as started to slowly fall towards ground level. I was doing it! I found myself saying thank you over and over again to the volunteers that were fading away above me. I don’t know why but I was so thankful for the experience, and probably for the fact that I wasn’t falling towards the ground at the speed I would be without their help. The participant next to me had a fear of heights, and I think she made it down the building in 10 seconds flat. I, on the other hand, looked around and down and really took in the experience. As I slid down the side of the building, the cheers below got louder which only made it more fun.
When I got to the bottom, I felt a bravery I hadn’t before. Yet another team of volunteers unhooked me and lead me to a group of athletes that were so incredibly happy for me. This is where the tears came in. I was so grateful for the experience to be brave for them and proud of myself for earning that experience by raising money for these guys. They put a big medal over my head and took me to a podium where we all smiled for a picture together. I took off all 10 pounds of gear and took a seat to watch the other brave participants slide down the building in awe that I had just done that!
So, like I said earlier – The only advice I can give you on this one is GO FOR IT!