By Morgan M. Hurley | Editor
Volunteers needed to assist teams and individuals face their fears
People with brain cancer face a lot of fears. On Sunday, Dec. 2, the nonprofit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) are giving them the opportunity to face a fear they can manage and control; rappelling down the side of a 365-foot building.
In its fifth year in San Diego, Over the Edge for Brain Cancer is a fundraising collaboration involving ABC2; Over the Edge, an adventure experience company that focuses on rappelling events for nonprofits; the Manchester Grand Hyatt; and Encore Event Technologies, the Hyatt’s contracted audio-visual company.
Together, these organizations create an unparalleled experience for the survivors of brain cancer, those still struggling with the disease, and their family and friends.
For their part, participants in Over the Edge for Brain Cancer raise money through sponsorships and peer-to-peer fundraising — much like those who run a 5k would — for ABC2, which then grants the money toward research into medicines and cures for this rare and deadly disease. Since its inception, ABC2 has provided more than 100 grants, totaling $120 million, including one to UC San Diego Health’s Brain Cancer Center.
Sen. John McCain recently announced that he is one of the 12,000 people in the U.S. struggling with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and Sen. Ted Kennedy died of the disease in 2009. Brain cancer is also currently the leading type of pediatric cancer.
“We found Over the Edge – a company based in Nova Scotia – and decided it was a great metaphor for our organization; specifically, because there is a perceived risk in rappelling down the side of a building and we also take risks in what we fund,” said Mindy Hoff, director of communications for ABC2.
“It may not be the things that everyone else is throwing money at but we think the research is a cool idea and might have some really lasting effects in breaking into research,” she continued. “Also, our CEO [Max Wallace] calls us the ‘secret team’ — like a Seal Team — fighting the good fight. So [Over the Edge] matched our philosophy pretty well.”
The Manchester Grand Hyatt is the largest of the buildings ABC2 has contracted for the event so far this year; others being Atlanta (240 feet), and Washington, D.C. (180 feet). An event at the San Francisco Grand Hyatt (300-plus feet) is in the works.
The two corporate sponsors, both with participating teams this year in San Diego, are MesaRim and Pacific Sotheby’s, whose team will be going over first at 8 a.m.
A total of 76 people are scheduled to rappel down the side of the Hyatt on Dec. 2, something Hoff said generally takes about 10 minutes. Participants are from cities all across the country, but 75 percent are local. Many of the teams will wear shirts that honor those they are rappelling for and a slide show near the finish will tell their stories throughout the day.
Over the Edge personnel provide the tethers and leads on the building; get all the “edgers” set up in their harnesses, hard hats, cameras and radios; offer practice runs and training for participants; and oversee safety for the event.
The descent, however, is up to the individual; you control your time and speed. If anyone does get into a panic and can’t finish, Hoff said, the team at Over the Edge will take over and lower you down safely.
“It was an exhilarating experience and [the people at Over the Edge] are extraordinary,” said Downtown resident, Judy Hawkins.
Hawkins got involved with Over the Edge for Brain Cancer last year, by chance. She said she met a young woman whose mother canceled a trip to support her descent. Hawkins decided to stand in for the woman’s mother and found herself helping another young woman — whom she found sobbing and terrified — through her descent by using the gift of laughter. Later that day, Hawkins found herself going over the edge of the building, after another scheduled participant had canceled. She said she was hooked; on both the event and its cause.
“I don’t know anyone with brain cancer, but I wanted to be there to support,” Hawkins said. “I love who they are and who they represent, and I have full intention of doing it this year and next year. I believe in it and I believe in them. They are good, good people.”
Next year, Hawkins said she plans to get “the social heads” of all the Downtown condominiums involved to sponsor participants and compete against each other.
Hoff, who is admittedly petrified of heights, said she participated in an Over the Edge for Brain Cancer event in her home base of Washington D.C., raising nearly $7,000 through personal sponsorships.
“I figured I could not ask someone else to do it if I couldn’t do it myself,” she said. “I was terrified until the moment I leaned back off the building; and then an extreme calm came over me. My sister died of melanoma five years ago, so my nephew did it with me. It was exhilarating and crazy, but I’ve thought about doing it again.”
“It’s a pretty emotional day with a lot of survivors, a lot of medical practitioners, and friends or family of those who have passed away or are still fighting,” Hoff said.
Hawkins said she spoke to a lot of the “edgers” last year.
“They were terrified and they all told me, ‘It scares the hell out of me, but not as much as brain cancer.’”
A minimum sponsorship fee of $1,500 is required to participate in the adventure and while teams for this year are already set, there is a wait list in case of cancellations and those interested can sign up for next year.
Over the Edge for Brain Cancer will raise $700,000 in 2017, with approximately $200,000 of that in San Diego.
“All the money we raise in San Diego for this specific event stays in San Diego,” Hoff said.
Hoff is looking for volunteers to assist throughout the day with things such as registration, running the slide show, taking photos, assisting participants up to the roof, and helping them after they land. And they are always looking for people to just come out and support the “edgers.” Spectating is free.
Over the Edge for Brain Cancer will take place Sunday, Dec. 2, from 8 a.m.–6 p.m. at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, located at 1 Market Place and Harbor Drive, Downtown. A media and VIP day will take place Saturday, Dec. 1, from 1–4 p.m.
For more information visit abc2.org or to volunteer, email Hoff at email@example.com. Follow them on Twitter at @oteforbraincancer and use the hashtag #oteforbraincancer when referring to them on social media.
— Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.