Thirty-nine people stepped backwards off of the roof of a Broad Street medical building on May 4 with one common goal: “We are all focused on providing the best possible environment for children to thrive,” as Davin Welter put it.
Welter is the executive director of the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which teamed up with the Nancy Travis Childcare Project and Children First to put together the first Over the Edge event to take place in Athens. Over the Edge is a for-profit, Canadian organization that helps nonprofits raise money by sending fundraisers—edgers—who meet their goal of at least $1,000 “over the edge” of a tall building. With ropes, of course.
“We had done the Trots for Tots in the past, and it had been successful, but anybody in Athens could do a 5K,” said Lindsay Tabor, event coordinator for the Nancy Travis Childcare Project. “It’s great, but we were looking for something we could continue year after year. It’s really safe. It’s unique. Nothing like this has been done in Athens, so that uniqueness alone will get people’s attention.”
The event has been in the works since last May and was originally scheduled for September, but finding a building that was tall enough and up to code for rappelling proved to be difficult, so the event was put on hold until the Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center (SPARC) building was offered up.
Each of the three organizations that participated had to pay an initial fee of $3,500, and 12 percent of the first $750 raised goes back to OTE. After that, 7 percent of all funds raised goes to OTE. The nonprofits keep the remainder. “It may sound like a lot, but I’m very comfortable with that, because they’re paying people to come visit, the production, $10 million life insurance, and this is how they make their living,” said Sally Coenen, fundraising chairwoman for Nancy Travis.
Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
Cars slowed along West Broad St. from 8:30 a.m. until the event wrapped up around 4 p.m. as drivers craned their necks to see people, some dressed in tutus or cheesehead costumes, rappel down the brick walls of the SPARC building. The cutest daredevil was Sparky the dog, the fire department mascot. (Several firefighters were stationed on the roof and on the ground, helping ensure a safe event.)
Top hat affixed to his helmet and serving tray strapped to the back of his right hand, Daniel Epting of Epting Events sprung from the side of the building as he lowered himself via the two ropes—one primary, the other a backup, just in case. The announcer dubbed him “the most entertaining edger.”
When asked about his fancy black-and-white serving suit and bright green cumberbun, the caterer said, “It’s a part of who I am and I wanted to tie it into the event,” which he said he loved. “The crowd was awesome, the firefighters were great. And I was able to give the fireman at the bottom a cinnamon raisin cookie.” At the base of the building, he presented spectators with sweets from his tray.
Other edgers included Clarke County School Superintendent Philip Lanoue and Flagpole Publisher and Advertising Director Alicia Nickles, while Mayor Nancy Denson watched the action.
Although in the beginning stages it was a leap of faith in the ability of a community to raise a large amount of money, Coenen said that “we’ve been amazed at the generosity of the community. I mean, people have been really, really generous.”
Together, Nancy Travis, Children First and the Interfaith Hospitality Network had a goal to raise $90,000, though the individual goals for each nonprofit were varying. Overall, they fell a bit short at $82,172—still an impressive haul.
For Nancy Travis, the money will fund mini-grants for people in need of child care services. IHN will use the money to help find permanent housing for families in need. Children First’s priorities for the proceeds include training parents in childcare and Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers.
Although OTE and the nonprofits involved in the event had a great experience using the SPARC building, they’re keeping options open for the location for next year’s event. With the success of this year’s fundraiser, the plan is to make the event an annual thing, with all three nonprofits looking forward to making next year’s bigger and better. “This was a great collaborative fundraiser,” Weller said, “I can’t wait to see what we’re able to accomplish next year.”
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