Rappellers fight fear, gravity to fundraise

Photo by Fred Blauth | Editor-in-Chief. Pittsburgher Bert Dorazio rappels down the Oliver Building Wednesday morning in a Superman costume.

Photo by Fred Blauth | Editor-in-Chief. Pittsburgher Bert Dorazio rappels down the Oliver Building Wednesday morning in a Superman costume.

By Fred Blauth | Editor-in-Chief

Sixty people rappelled down the 25-story Oliver Building in Downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday to raise money for those affected by cancer.

The event, hosted by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, raised more than $140,000 for Our Clubhouse, a nonprofit organization that provides free support for those diagnosed with cancer, their family and friends. To descend the 347-foot building on Smithfield Street, participants raised or donated a minimum of $1,500. It was the largest grossing fundraising effort in the organization’s history.

Our Clubhouse worked with Over the Edge, a national nonprofit that works exclusively with other nonprofits to offer the unique fundraising opportunity to rappel down a local building.

The collaboration was inspired by the concept of a “bucket list,” according to Our Clubhouse program director Colleen Dwyer.

“You want to check a few things off and this was a pretty highly intensive event that’s something different and will cause a lot of buzz in the city,” Dwyer said.

As a participant herself, Our Clubhouse executive director Carol Lennon said she overcame her fear of heights by channeling her respect and courage for those battling the sickness.

“It’s exhilarating. It’s to me much like what our members face every day with so much fear, anxiety and the unknown,” Lennon said. “I tried to focus on that while I was up there. I kept telling myself, ‘If they can do that, going through cancer treatments and all that goes with it, I can get through this.’”

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the fundraising event took over Mellon Square Park with music provided by 96.9 Bob-FM and Q92.9. The sold-out event was a success in Dwyer’s eyes and something Our Clubhouse “hopes to make into an annual event.”

Our Clubhouse’s mission is to equally touch the lives of those directly affected by cancer, including family, friends and co-workers. On Wednesday, the nonprofit took this concept to new heights in a positive way, organizers said.
“We provide social and emotional support to anyone who has been touched by cancer,” Dwyer said.

Proceeds from the event will go directly toward funding the activities and programs Our Clubhouse provide to its members free of charge. Whether it be through educational workshops, support groups or social activities open to all age groups, Our Clubhouse aims to support all in the fight against cancer.

“We’re a place for those who have been touched and to learn that they’re not alone,” Dwyer said.

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