Dangling from the top of a 13-story Iowa City building — for a cause

How facing your fears in a rappel is similar to how one might face fears in life, often times it is out of one’s comfort zone to face their fears.


Yue Zhang

Andrew Sciranko, a participant in Over the Edge, rappels down the side of hotelvetro on Sept. 14.

Andrew Sciranko, News Reporter

The Over the Edge event held Sept. 14 at hotel Vetro was a chance for participants to experience a rappel, face the fears that go with such an undertaking, and help raise money for families of sick children.

All the funds from the rappel went to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. Each participant was encouraged to raise $1,000.

Some people might wonder why anyone would ever want to hang from a 13-story building, then rappel down it. For some, it’s fun and a boost of adrenaline; for others, it can be about conquering one’s fears.

Upon registering for the event, I hopped on an elevator to the suite of the hotel on the 13th floor. Once on the top floor, there was all of the equipment needed to rappel: gloves, helmet, harness, radio.

The event was coordinated by the McDonald House Charities. Organization fundraising coordinator Victoria Mueller said facing one’s fears in a rappel isn’t all that different from families who are forced to face their fears with their loved ones who become ill.

RELATED: Fundraisers go over the edge of hotelVetro

“Families find themselves outside of their comfort zones when in need of a place to stay,” said Barbara Werning, the executive director of McDonald House Charities.

Once the gear was on, I headed out to the balcony for training in rappelling. During this stage, everyone was taught how to use the equipment to rappel, and you practice hanging in the harness just a couple of feet off of the floor to get accustomed to how it feels.

During this stage, a member of the training staff, Alexis, referred to a certain safety device as the “fun stopper.” This device is essentially a safety brake that locks if rappelling becomes too rapid.

The Ronald McDonald House is place that families can stay in if they have a loved one in the hospital. The house has 31 rooms and two-family rooms for families to stay in where they are accommodated.

“Our mission is to keep families close in times of hardship,” Mueller said.

The next rappelling stage is getting strapped up on the roof and starting descent over the edge. The hardest and scariest part of the event is getting the body off the edge of the building. It just seems unnatural to do such a thing, and everything in your mind and body is telling you this isn’t right.

It is high stress for families who find themselves in a position where hospital stays become long. The couple who rappelled before I went down, Tom and Amanda Rauen, have stayed at the house in the past when their son was recovering.

The couple now give back to the house and participated in the event out of appreciation for what the house did for them in a time of hardship.

While I was hanging at the top of building awaiting my rappelling partner to get hooked in, I became aware what the event really means.

“When going through high-stress times, having the house there was a huge burden off of us,” Rauen said.