Over the Edge challenge has people jumping off a building to raise funds for the Boy Scouts
Spiderman was a big hit with onlookers
Going over the edge
Rappelling to raise funds for Scoutreach
What better way to celebrate Halloween than to crawl down the side of a building?
It was a beautiful sunny day in Savannah as tourists strolled the streets enjoying the sights and sounds, and locals took a little longer for lunch break to go over to the Manger building on the east side of Johnson Square to see what all those silly people were doing rappelling down the side of an eleven story building.
Close to 100 people strapped into industrial strength harnesses and clipped onto ropes strong enough to hold 6500 pounds without breaking.
"You will be safer going down the side of the building than you were driving here," said the female instructor who helped everyone get harnessed up and go through a three step safety check.
Two young women complained the harnesses were too tight and seemed more worried about their hair than the thousand foot plunge to the pavement.
Okay, maybe it was more like 136 feet, but when you were standing on top of the building, it seemed like a really long way down!
The event is called Over the Edge; a signature fundraising event that sends participants rappelling down the side of an eleven-story Manger Building in downtown Savannah, Georgia.
It is touted a a once in a lifetime experience, but many people who did it last year returned to do it again and to be honest, it rivaled the best thrill ride at any , with many wanting to go back in line and do it again. amusement park
The event raises money to benefit Scoutreach Inner City Scouting Programs offered by the Coastal Georgia Council Boy Scouts of America.
Scoutreach typically helps set up scout troops in underprivileged areas where youth might not be able to afford scouting or get the opportunity to do fun things outside the home because of lack of funds and opportunities.
Participants in the challenge had to raise $1000 to go over the edge and for many, the fund raising portion of the program was more hair raising than dropping over the side of a building.
Some, like Allen Harvey from the National League of POW and MIA families and Peter Mastopoulos,a scout leader himself, exceeded their $1000 goal long before the challenge began. Others, like me, just barely eked by on closing day with the help of friends and family who campaigned with vigor to get the funds raised
Participants could also raise additional funds above $1000 which could be donated to their non-profit organizations as well and the Over the Edge challenge is still accepting donations in the hopes of raising nearly $75,000 for the Scoutreach program if you would like to contribute to a great cause.
There she goes, nervous, but doing great and having fun!!!
Getting fitted with a harness
It was a day full of fun for everyone!
The first rappellers arrived around 8:30 a.m. to get harnessed up, go through a safety check and practice rappelling on a two foot ledge overhanging the top of the building.
Some were nervous, some were overjoyed, some just listened quietly to instructions and a few complained about the way the harness or the helmet fit.
Nothing was allowed in the pockets, not even keys and no personal cameras were allowed unless they were bolted safely on to a helmet.
Women were asked to remove anything from their bras as one woman's eyes raised and the instructor clarified, anything that might fall out like keys or cell phone. It brought a few giggles as the guys patted down their chests to show they were not carrying concealed anything.
A few people dressed in costumes and the ready crew did all they could to accommodate, even putting holes in a floppy brimmed pink hat that was part of the breast cancer awareness support and allowing a Spiderman costume with full face gear and brown loafers which drew almost as much attention as the costume itself.
Participants learn the literal ropes before plunging over the edge
On the practice wall learning to rappel
Once up on the roof, we learned how to rappel
Putting on the gear was a bit intense. Everyone checked and double checked and gave instructions on how to signal if you got in trouble on the way down, but it didn't get real until the final steps up the narrow stairway to the rooftop where the sun was so bright and the sky was so blue that it was hard to be worried about what was to come.
Everyone showed intense interest in the instructors. Maybe it was because no cell phones or cameras were allowed on the roof top (to prevent things from falling, but in part to keep people paying attention too).
There was a small step up on one side of the roof which was converted into a practice rappel wall and one by one the groups of four and five took turns learning how to sit down in the harness, place feet shoulder width apart and lean back into the ropes.
The release device was easy to use and was more like a video game control, but many took a death grip on it and it did take a while to learn how to release it without jerking, just like learning to drive an old fashioned stick shift car.
The rope itself was housed in a wrap around device so that if you took your hands completely off the device and the ropes you would simply stop. Participants were shown how to unstick the device which locked in place automatically if you started to descend too rapidly.
There were plenty of safety devices to keep people out of trouble and plenty of safety checks, though many secretly wished for a little bit more time to practice and check before clicking into the ropes and standing on the ledge of the building preparing to go over the edge!
Some were nervous, some excited, but everyone made it down the wall like a pro
While everyone was joking and laughing, they were serious too. Some had done the jump before and were impatient for the training to end so they could do the real event, while others enjoyed hanging out on the rooftop and enjoying the panoramic view with the river and cargo ships on one side, the Savannah River bridge with its massive cables on the other and a wide angle view of the historic district and all the church steeples and miniaturized historic houses.
Everyone got a chance to practice on the wall before climbing up a stepladder to the next level where a series of ropes and metal piping made the building look a bit like it was being drilled for oil.
A few checked the ropes and rigging just to make sure they were in good shape, while others wanted to hang back and watch someone else go before them so they could get a few last minute pointers.
When it was finally their turn, each person approached as if they had just volunteered to go to war or a secret rescue mission from which they might not return. They were willing participants, but a bit gray faced, with clinched jaws and a certain resolve that made smiling for the cameras more forced than real.
One young woman who had never rappelled before had a steely look tempered by worry, yet over the edge she went, edging so slowly down the vertical brick wall that it seemed she would take half the day to descend, while others pushed off so fast, that those below were afraid the ropes had failed and the people would fall to their death.
A very few got turned the wrong way around, but easily righted themselves and most just took it literal step by step with some taking long steps and others short and a few stopping to turn and look down and enjoy the view, while others stared straight ahead at the brick wall fearing they might put a foot through one of the glass windows and wondering it those cracks in the bricks might not be so stable with all the feet pressing against them that day.
The first step is the hardest
As in anything in life, taking the first step, listening to wise instruction and having faith can take you to places you never imagined you could go.
Some have said they would never do such a thing because they were deathly afraid of heights, but even though a few of us were a little afraid we would end up passing out or our nerves would make us shake so badly that we would not be able to hold on to the ropes, it really wasn't that frightening until you actually stood up on the ledge and if anything, the big fear was that the thick canvas mats would slip out from underfoot causing the person rappelling to fall into the wall or that one would rappel too rapidly and get stuck or get turned around and not be able to get back upright.
None of those fears came true. While it took a while to regulate the speed and it was hard to keep your feet on the wall the further you went down, everything went well and no one got stuck or turned upside down or broke through a window or any of the other fears imagined.
It really was a metaphor for life: If something scares you or just seems out of your reach, take it on with a back up team to support you and you will be surprised at what you can achieve.
You still might not be willing to rappel down a wall, but look for smaller challenges you can do without a team of professionals. Maybe you can train for a road race to raise money and awareness for a cause. Maybe you can volunteer to work with children or older adults, even though it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Maybe you can teach a skill to others like sewing or knitting and use the finished project to give to someone in need or who needs a little lift with a special gift.
There are so many things you can do to help others while helping yourself in the process and taking the first step can lead to a memorable experience that brings all sorts of good things.
Scout masters who have been around for a long time say they definitely see a changing world where scouting is still relevant, but that it is harder to reach boys who often have trouble putting down their electronic devices and paying attention and enjoying the wilderness and learning crafts and skills.
Many older scouts who went to war say the skills they learned kept them alive, while others say that the skills they learned made them want to follow a career helping others.
You can help too, by volunteering with scouting, donating camping equipment, leading a training seminar, taking scouts on a tour of your business or just buying popcorn from them to help support the troop.
There are so many things you can do, that you might think are impossible, but if you take that first step and don't plunge head first into the pavement, you will discover a new world of opportunities where nothing holds you back from making your dreams and the dreams of others become reality in a good way!