By Stacey A. Garrett
When the Special Olympics of Tennessee announced it was bringing its “Over the Edge” fundraiser to the Nashville City Center for anyone brave enough to rappel down the side of the 27-story downtown high rise, Bone McAllester Norton attorney and Board Chair Stacey Garrett said, “Sign me up!” But, WHY? Read her story.
Yes, I did! I rappelled our 27-story building.
It all started after reading an email announcing a fundraiser for the Special Olympics of Tennessee to sponsor a year round sports training and athletic competition for more than 16,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Those raising at least $1,000 to support the cause would be among the persons selected to rappel from the downtown Nashville City Center, which is 27 stories and over 400 feet.
Truth is, I never gave it a second thought and signed up within 5 minutes of receiving the email. It seemed like the experience of a lifetime and a great challenge to advocate for a special organization.
So, the answer to my most frequently asked question, “But WHY!?” is -- it was a natural response from a very adventurous spirit. And, the answer to the next question, “Are you crazy?” -- definitely not.
The fundraising challenge became an incredible source of fun as I worked to develop, promote and manage my own fundraising webpage and spread the word about the campaign. Learning about the Special Olympics of Tennessee was a wonderful experience. The best advocate is a believer in his or her cause, and throughout this process, I learned more and more about the truly special cause this organization supports. It was amazing to see the event participants become vocal and active advocates of the Special Olympics of Tennessee.
With the fundraising goal met, I was assigned to rappel on Friday, September 10 at 3:00 p.m. An exciting idea was about to become a reality.
The day was met with persistent and heavy rain. Driving up to the Nashville City Center (where I work) and watching the rappellers even in the hard rain, I wasn’t sure how I felt. Was it fear? Would I actually go through with it? In reality, I had no idea how I would react when the time came, because the experience was unknown and it was the fear of the unknown that was most distressing.
I was watching the weather radar nonstop and praying suddenly it wouldn’t rain (or at least not so hard) when 3 pm arrived and, amazingly, the sun came out. My worried parents camped out with family, friends and our entire office to watch.
Stepping off the elevator on the 27th floor, I thought about turning around. Standing there was one of the Special Olympics participants to cheer and thank us, and I couldn’t walk away. The volunteers there to help us at the top were from different places. Some worked in power plants and hung in ropes for a living. Each and every one of them was an incredible source of support.
I will never forget climbing out onto the ledge on my knees. In that moment, feeling nothing around me, I realized there was no turning back. Taking a deep breath, I slowly sat back but was unable to move downward due to the weight of the rope. After several seconds in a completely horizontal position and not moving, I quickly jumped back on the ledge.
With the encouragement of the volunteers, I tried once more. I remember being told: “Stacey, girl, you are already over the edge. It is that easy. You did it. Now keep going.”
Things went okay for the first six stories, but then my foot slipped off a wet window and I began swinging and couldn’t get traction for my foot. I admit I panicked a bit. But, I vividly recall that in the next second, I heard the Bone McAllester Norton team cheering me on loud and clear and, in that instant, realized my surroundings. Those cheers were enough to allow me to thoughtfully find a place to put my feet for traction and to keep going down. Watching the video, it is clear to me when all this occurred. It is a very brief time on tape, but at the moment, it seemed an eternity.
Although the trek down seemed an eternity, when my feet touched the ground at the end, a smile was on my face. It wasn’t relief to be on the ground, but rather the realization that I had conquered fears I never knew I had. I had tested and can now attest to the fact that all you need to accomplish your goals is within you. I met incredible people and had a great time learning about and supporting the Special Olympics of Tennessee. And, in the end, it was a true adventure.