Their message is simple. Rappelling down the side of a building pales in comparison to the challenges some people face every day of their lives. On Dec. 9, hundreds of people will take that frightening first step off the 27-story, 415-foot-high CityScape building in Phoenix, all for a good cause.
The annual Over the Edge event raises money and awareness for Special Olympics. “You may be wondering what rappelling down a skyscraper has to do with Special Olympics, the answer is simple,” the Over the Edge website states. “If you are a person with intellectual disabilities, you encounter adversities daily. You must have courage to try something that doesn’t come easily to you.
“Our athletes bravely face challenges on the field, in the pool and on the court. They are the inspiration for this event. We are asking our participants to step into the shoes of our athletes. Take your support for Special Olympics Arizona to new heights and face your fears. It takes the same amount of courage to go ‘over the edge’ as it does for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in sports.”
This year’s local team — the Sedona Red Rockers — has doubled in size and will again be lead by officer Jackie McQuaid of the Sedona Police Department. Joining her from the SPD is Chief David McGill, Cmdr. Ron Bayne and Sgt. Nathan Dorfman. Other teammates include Sedona Fire District Chief Kris Kazian, Sedona-Oak Creek School District Superintendent David Lykins, Sedona Red Rock High School Principal Darrin Karuzas and West Sedona School Principal Scott Keller.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 31, the team had raised $5,446 of their $10,000 goal — ranking them fourth out of 29 teams. Each participant shared their reasoning for taking part in the event and how they feel about rappelling down the side of a building.
McQuaid: “I am going to challenge myself just as athletes of Special Olympics do on a daily basis. “The fear that I will experience is only temporary, while the positive impact on our community and this organization will last a life time.”
Lykins: “My participation in this worthwhile event is to raise awareness and money surrounding students who are identified with specific needs, which require accommodations and modifications of their educational delivery. Although these students need some accommodations, they are truly talented and gifted in so many ways. All of us have dedicated our lives to serving all students. Many special education students take on great challenges every day, often demonstrating strength and courage. This is one way I can support those students and say thank you to these students who you have taught me so much over the last 30 years. “I participated last year and it was a little unnerving as you first step over the edge of a perfect standing skyscraper.”
Kazian: “Having a daughter who had special needs and passed away at the age of 2 makes this cause near and dear to my heart. My wife and I operate a nonprofit for children who have special needs so I love to support Special Olympic athletes. “Rappelling off a 400-plus foot building is a great challenge for many. Thinking of the challenges and adversity these folks overcome, it is a simple show of how we can support a great cause and let the athletes know we believe in them.”
McGill: “Law enforcement is a huge supporter of Special Olympics, and this event is another unique way to partner with Special Olympics and raise money for our special athletes. “The Over the Edge event is a great way to satisfy a desire of some of my friends and colleagues to throw me off a tall building. Seriously, this event replicates the fears and insecurities special athletes face every day of their lives. My team will be challenged to overcome our fears and insecurities as well.”
Karuzas: “I have always had a spot in my heart for the special needs population. It was a no-brainer to agree to participate for this cause. “However, when I heard it was to rappel down a 27-story skyscraper, I had to reflect deeply. Eventually the cause itself and peer pressure won over and hence, I have agreed. I am nervous and a bit scared, but I’ll never admit it.”
Dorfman: “I grew up going to Special Olympic events all over the state as a kid. My dad and my mom met at an event so it’s always been a part of my life. My dad was a special education teacher and my mom has been doing years and years of work to improve on people’s lives who suffer from some type of mental illness. Some of my best memories are from Special Olympics events. My daughter suffered a stroke at birth and was diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy. These Olympians deserve to be applauded and celebrated every day. I want to do what I can to make some dreams come true and show my daughter and my other two kids they can do whatever they want to do no matter what obstacles are in front of them. “As far as the heights and rappelling goes — I am terrified. Flat-out am not a fan. That being said, these Olympians are braver than most people would ever realize. I better suck it up and be brave myself. Also, I want to give people something to cry laughing at as I make my way down that building.”
Keller: “I’m participating to support Special Olympics, as my sister is a former athlete in the Special Olympics. “I was asked by Officer McQuaid to join the Sedona team. Even though I have a fear of heights, I’m going to overcome much like our Special Olympians every day.”
Bayne: “It is a cause that deserves more public attention and this event provides that. “Rappelling down a building is just a fun and exciting way to raise awareness. We are fortunate to have an opportunity to do this.”