Over the Edge fundraiser benefits YWCA

SPECIAL FUNDRAISER — Sara Quigley floats toward the ground across the surface of the Stone Center using rappelling equipment on Saturday. She was one of many participants in the YWCA’s Over the Edge fundraiser. -- Alec Berry

WHEELING — What do you need to raise money for a good cause? Some ropes, a few harnesses and several brave volunteers.

On Saturday, a few dozen people rappelled from the top of the Stone Center down to the street, and they took some sense of pride in their action because it was unusual, and because it was for charity.

Over the Edge, in its fourth year, supports the YWCA of Wheeling by inviting notable locals to climb down the side of a tall building, so long as they each raise at least $1,000 in public contributions.

The money raised finances the organization’s various programs, which support cultural diversity and women and offer refuge against domestic violence.

Lori Jones, executive director of the YWCA, said the event has generated more than $200,000 in the last three years.

“Even though I’ve done it now for four years, I still get nervous, especially at first when it’s time to go out over the edge,” participant Shelly Thomas said.

The event ran at a quick pace, with participants getting their initial standstill at the onset of their journey, yet finding themselves in a rapid descent followed by cheers from spectators. This process would begin anew whenever anyone would touch the ground.

“I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I’ll do it,'” Sara Quigley said.

She noted that the rappelling experience felt much longer than its actual run time.

“At the top it’s scary because they just want you to lean your body back over the building and they’re essentially holding all of your weight,” she said. “It was fun.”

A company from Nova Scotia, Canada, offers Over the Edge as a pre-planned fundraising product for nonprofit agencies throughout the country.

Jones said the Over the Edge campaign leans on individuals who go out and talk about the fact that they’ll wear a harness and climb down a building as a means to incite interest.

Contributions from the event have helped the YWCA of Wheeling assist 9,056 people in the last year, according to Jones.

At the foot of the Stone Center, Jones stood with a megaphone calling out statements of support to the rappellers.

She played the role of carnival barker and cheerleader.

“They need it,” she said. “They can hear you.”