When it comes to charity, you’ve got your walk-a-thons, your bowl-a-thons, your jump-rope-a-thons. And now, how about the rappel-down-a-huge-building-a-thon?
It’s not actually a marathon. But the Special Olympics has arranged for the craziest among us to climb down the 15-story front of the Hilton Crystal City hotel, and to raise funds in doing it, on June 22. They’re also having a “VIP/Media rappel day” the day before. I’m looking forward to veteran rappeller Pat Collins of WRC-TV bounding down the Hilton that day. Say you will, Pat. For the kids.
Ellen Head, the director of development for Special Olympics Virginia, said they’ve been doing this in Richmond for three years with increasing success, but this is the first time they’re trying it in Northern Virginia. And convincing a building owner around here to allow random strangers to hop around on the side of their skyscraper was a tough sell, Head said. Some said their tenants were uncomfortable with it. Some with government contractors said they were afraid their top secrets would be stolen, Head said. That’s in case Tom Cruise smashed through the window, took lots of photos of documents with a tiny spy camera, and then rappelled to the bottom, smiled that toothy smile and coolly turned in his 10-cents-per-floor pledge sheet.
But Hilton, already a big sponsor of Special Olympics, stepped up. ”It’s a pretty exciting way to raise money,” said Harold Bassler, the Hilton Crystal City’s general manager. Head said he’s been instrumental in making it happen.
The event is run by a group called Over the Edge, which does this sort of urban rappelling in a number of different places and so has the expertise to check out the sites and handle the legal liability. Head and Bassler said Over the Edge had scoped out the Hilton extensively, and have determined that climbing down the windows adjacent to the tower is the best way.
The Richmond rappelling event is now so popular it sells out, and only 96 slots are available for the First Annual Crystal City Rappel. Head said a couple of Special Olympics athletes will be making the climb. Those who raise $2,500 or more in pledges get a free room at the Hilton. And everyone who participates gets a free drink from the Hilton. So you’ve got that going for you.