Some organizations have been known to go out on a limb to raise funds for charity. But for one such local group, taking a leap of faith off of a very tall building is their latest plan to gather donations.
Next month up to 90 people will have the opportunity to display their bravery while helping worthy causes by rappelling 20 stories down the Marriott Hotel on Airport Boulevard. Groups benefiting from the “Over The Edge” event include Mobile Arc, St. Mary’s Home, Woody’s Song, McKemie Place, The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mobile, The Exchange Club and the Abba Shrine Children’s Transportation Fund.
Many of the volunteers behind the adventure belong to The 74 Club. Board member Randy Copeland said some of the group were in the 1974 graduating class at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School.
“One of our former classmates got sick with cancer, and we put together a golf tournament to help with expenses and to provide emotional support,” Copeland said. “The idea came out of nowhere, but it was very successful.
“Everyone said we did a good job with it. We decided to become a legit group, and filed for our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.”
Although their classmate lost her battle with cancer, they have continued hosting the Lydia Leon Bennett Memorial golf tournament in her honor the last five years at Spring Hill College. Among the other benefits listed on their website (the74club.org) are the 74 Club Spring Benefit Table Dance, a barbecue fundraiser for an uninsured cancer patient, the Moon Pie Toss to benefit St. Mary’s Home, the Luck of the Irish Cook-Off plus a recent partnership with the FUSE Project at the Dragon Boat Races.
“We have had up to 200 people attend the Table Dance,” Copeland said. “We have some things planned, but if someone calls with a need we can react quickly.”
Copeland, the president of specialty valve and expansion joint distributor RMC and Associates, said the rappelling project started last summer when he received a call from a customer. The customer had noticed a number of passengers on a flight into Gulfport, Mississippi, wearing “Over the Edge” shirts. When asked about the equipment they carried, the reply was they were going to rappel off the Beau Rivage casino.
“My customer had played in our golf tournament, so he knew we were always looking for ways to raise money for charities,” Copeland said. “The OTE organizers invited us to Memphis for their next event. They do about 125 around the country, but never in Mobile.
“We saw about 60 participants going down a 30-story building. We came back enthusiastic about hosting our own event,” he said.
The one major hang-up was the $30,000 license fee. Dennis Langan, a 74 Club member, helped with the down payment and the ball was rolling.
The next task involved finding the proper structure. The 74 Club sent a list of buildings that were 15 stories or higher. Lisa Castagna, the general manager at the Mobile Marriott, was instantly intrigued with the idea.
“The organizers approved many of the buildings on our list, but Lisa had talked to her boss in Minneapolis,” Copeland said. “He liked the publicity and really wanted us to use the Marriott. The OTE group had experience using a Marriott in Miami, so they were familiar with their system.”
Things quickly took off from there. A contract was signed in mid-September. The Kalifeh Media Group offered its services to produce a website and to oversee advertising. The iHeart media team has also provided assistance.
The whole purpose of the project, though, is to raise money for the charities. Those wishing to participate put down a $100 registration fee and then are asked to raise a minimum of $1,000. The ultimate goal for the 74 Club is to raise $100,000.
“We can take up to 90, but we may not get that many,” Copeland said, adding that his group keeps none of the proceeds. “But even if we only get 50 people, we still hope to raise the $100,000. There was one person in Austin who raised $60,000 by themselves.”
Copeland said the event is open to anyone. The OTE organizers had a 94-year-old man rappel in Cincinnati, and persons with handicaps have also participated. Young people can go with parental consent. Copeland said he hopes to have a few celebrities make a surprise appearance.
“People are really taking to this,” Copeland said. “When we did the Dragon Boat Race, it started small with 20 teams and has grown to 50. I think this is something else that can really grow.
“Even if you don’t go down the building, we will have food tents and music in the parking lots. This will be a great family event that Mobile has never seen before.”
The celebrities and media personalities will rappel on Friday, March 4, while the main event will take place the next day. To learn more about the event or to make a tax-deductible donation visit www.otemobile.com. Details on this international phenomenon can be found at www.OverTheEdgeUSA.com.
Lady Ram honored
Following the upset of nationally ranked Bethel, the University of Mobile’s Starla Daggan was named the Southern States Athletic Conference’s player of the week in women’s basketball. In the 54-51 win over the nation’s No. 4 team, Daggan had 20 points and seven rebounds. Later in the week, she had 25 points and seven rebounds in a loss. She is currently third in the SSAC with a 15.76 scoring average.
Hill placed on Watch List
Kevin Hill, a right-handed pitcher for the University of South Alabama, has been placed on the 2016 Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List. Hill is the reigning Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the year and a preseason All-American pick in numerous polls. He is one of 50 players on the list to be selected the nation’s top amateur player from high school and college ranks, and the only one from Alabama.
Correction: This article was corrected on March 1 to reflect the number of teams participating in the first Dragon Boat Race.