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Over the edge

Local celebs rappel down Westin for charity

November 15, 2016
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Some of Southwest Florida's best-know personalities gathered at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village on Saturday on the roof.

And they were going to come back down the hard way.

They were there to rappel down the side of the hotel in the Over the Edge rappelling event, a weekend fundraiser hosted by The Heights Center to support the Heights Foundation, a grassroots organization that works to build strong, self-sufficient families in the Harlem Heights neighborhood.

Article Photos


Peter Busch of NBC-2 News starts to rappel down the side of the Westin Cape Coral Resort during the Over the Edge rappelling event Saturday.

Kathryn Kelly, president, CEO and founder of the Heights Foundation, said the event serves as one of the biggest for the organization, expected to raise up to $100,000 to help the neighborhood and at-risk kids and families.

"We have afterschool and summer camp programs, GED classes, English as a second language and culinary training and job placement programs," Kelly said.

She said while the Heights Foundation and a rappelling event seem like perfect synergy, the idea came from a friend who was on the board of directors who did a similar event in Miami.

Last year, the inaugural event, which was at Coconut Point, was a huge success. Kelly did it and loved it so much she did it twice.

This year's event was moved to the Westin, much to the delight of Eric Ashton, general manager, who also took the plunge.

"We were very fortunate. The foundation approached us to see if we would host the event. They liked the facility and the view and we had the ability for Over the Edge to check it out and see if it was safe," Ashton said. "I'm a little nervous being up here. I never thought I would go over the edge of my own building."

Among those who made the trip down were radio and TV personality Gina Birch; Peter Busch, news anchor at NBC-2; and Nicholas Schmidt, owner-operator of Old Soul Brewing and a U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Sunday, 80 individuals who raised at least $1,500 for the foundation would get their turn.

The event was free and open to the public, who watched as the celebs slowly rappelled 19 stories down to the second floor.

Busch said he was volunteered by co-anchor Burns to do it, but even though it was frightening he was glad he did it, even though, he said, his legs were jelly and the adrenaline rush made him exhausted.

"I've done dozens of fundraisers, and this is the most creative. It's also the scariest and the only one that required me to up my life insurance policy," Busch said. "It's a thrill because you're over the edge and there's nothing between you and the ground."

Birch said she has always supported the foundation and is friends with some of the board members, who convinced her to do it.

"It was nerve wracking before I went over, but going down was a lot of fun when you stop and see how beautiful this area is," Birch said. "It's a great organization and a great way to raise money. It's better than an auction item. You get some adrenaline and action in your life."



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