The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Fundraisers go over the edge of hotelVetro

Fundraisers for Ronald McDonald House Charities encouraged to face their fears in Over the Edge event in downtown Iowa City on Sept. 14 and 15.
The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Sm
EPI reporter, Molly Hunter, prepares to repel down the side of the Hotel Vetro building at a Ronald McDonald House sponsored event on Friday, Sept. 15. Those who would like to participate could pay $25 for a spot on the list to repel. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

I was 158 feet off the ground and shuffled off the top of hotelVetro. As I started to descend, my name drifted up to me.

On the afternoon of Sept. 14, almost 24 hours earlier, I’d been one of the ant-sized people stopped below, staring skyward, on my way home from class.

People who raised $1,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois had the chance rappel over the side of 13-story hotelVetro, 201 S. Linn St.

Ronald McDonald House partnered in the rappelling with Over the Edge, a “special-events company that provides signature events for nonprofit organizations,” according to the company’s website.

“People face their fears every day when they stay at the House in our family rooms when their children are sick, and asking our fundraisers to face their fears was just a perfect fit,” said Barbara Werning, the executive director of the McDonald House Charities.

The mission of the House, Werning said, is to keep families close while their children are receiving treatment in a medical facility.

“At the House — that means we provide for them a room to stay, we provide a meal every night and food during the day, as well as laundry facilities and just everything that you would expect from a place that is home-like,” Werning said.

McDonald House Charities fundraising coordinator Victoria Mueller said the group has three locations, one being the 31-room Ronald McDonald House of Iowa City. She said the organization also has two family rooms, one in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital prenatal intensive care unit and another at St. Luke’s hospital in Cedar Rapids in its neonatal intensive care unit.

The organization expects to serve approximately 3,000 families this year.

I got there at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 15 and watched pairs of fundraisers go down the side of the building. Looking up at them made my palms sweaty.

At 12:30 p.m., I signed a waiver and took an elevator up to the 13th floor of the hotel, accompanied by a beaming McDonald House Charities volunteer in a bright yellow shirt and red-and-white striped socks.

When we reached the top floor, she handed me off to a set of equally excited volunteers, who gave me my own pair of candy-cane-colored socks. I was instructed to empty my pockets and leave my backpack in a big plastic blue tub.

Any loose items, I was told, were drop hazards. They gave me a strap for my glasses.

I was led into the next room, where harnesses, helmets, and gloves awaited me. Through a maze of glass walls I could see two rappelling platforms set up outside by the edge of the roof. As I watched, another pair of fundraisers shimmied their way backwards onto the ledge and slowly disappeared over it.

“Can you lift up your foot?”

One of the Over the Edge workers who’d been checking my harness and helmet tapped on my sneaker to get my attention. I did as she’d asked. She tugged a little on the heel of my left shoe and nodded.

“Nah, that’s not going to slip off.” She stood up. “You’re good — you can wait over there.”

Another person from Over the Edge gave me instructions on how to operate the rappelling equipment. After that, all there was left to do was stand in the sunlight on the top of hotelVetro and wait.

A few minutes later I was lowering myself over the side of the building, exhilarated by the height and the speed at which I was feeding rope through the harness.

Riley Hasken, a junior from Dubuque majoring in enterprise leadership and the philanthropy chair of the University of Iowa Sigma Alpha Epsilon, rappelled with six other SAE members.

“A guy on our committee … brought it up and thought it’d be a great idea to raise money,” he said. “Our goal was to raise $1,000. We sent out a link to our family members, friends, put it on Facebook, and ended up raising $7,000.”

In the end, more than 60 people went Over the Edge between Sept. 14 and 15.

“We’ve had groups that have ‘fundraised’ together, companies that have ‘tossed their boss’ over the edge, and also individuals,” Werning said.

By Sept. 15, Werning said, the group had raised around $55,000. The money raised by the Over the Edge event will go directly to support the families at the House and family rooms.

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