Chicago Skyline Plunge

When Aileen told me the Chicago Skyline Plunge was looking for rope volunteers for their Sunday event with the Chicago Respiratory Health Association, I jumped at the chance. Not only would I be able to meet some new folks (cavers!), I’d also have the opportunity to rappel 287 feet (or 27 floors) down the side of The Wit.

So on Saturday afternoon, Aileen, Tracey and I showed up for the volunteer briefing session where we got to don on the full body harnesses and go over the edge ourselves. Having rappelled multiple times before, though only up to 100 feet, I didn’t feel nervous, and took my time easing my way down the rope. I thought I might have been a little excited with my feet hanging 27 stories above the little specks of people below, but honestly, the harness felt completely secure. We were rappelling off the side the State Street, so we could see a sliver of the Chicago River to the north, and the distinctive Red and Yellow Chicago sign on the Chicago Theater to the south. Most of the rooms we rappelled past had their curtains tightly drawn, but here and there, their occupants had the blinds thrown open, and we were treated to views of them sleeping, walking around, or waving and grinning back at us.

We got up with the sun on Sunday morning, and were set up and ready for our first participants bright and early at 8am. I was assigned to the training station initially, and helped ensure that the participants manage to safely rappel off the roof to the roof-top bar before we sent them off over the edge of the building. Most of them seemed downright nervous when they first stepped to the edge of the platform, nevermind that I was just a floor below them. But they generally eased up once they realized how secure the equipment was. It was fun to watch them overcome their surprise. 🙂

Of the 80 or so participants (who raised over $90K!), only one person bailed out of the main rappel, which was awesome! It was a really fun event to see people conquer their fear of heights for a cause.


Tracey and I with Derrick at the “training area”


Chicago Sun Times:

Over the edge and down the side: Rappelers descend hotel for charity
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter/ May 5, 2013 1:06PM

As Erin Keller rappeled down the side of the gleaming downtown hotel, Julie Daly looked on, smiled widely and shouted “I am so proud of you!”

Daly suffers from very severe COPD, a lung disease, and Keller’s trek Sunday down the 27 stories of the shiny Wit hotel was in her honor.

“She’s really special to me,” Keller, 23, said of Daly, her former nanny who has become like family.

Keller was one of more than 60 people who participated in Skyline Plunge! at the hotel, 201 N. State, to raise money for the Respiratory Health Association.

Victoria Waliczek stepped over the edge of the building and slowly made her way down the wall — 278 feet — in honor of a friend’s mother who was diagnosed with lung cancer in April.

“If she can go through cancer, I can go down the wall, said Waliczek, 37, of Wicker Park.

Friends, family and bystanders stood at State and Lake watching the participants — two at a time — climb down. Many cheered, blew whistles and shook colorful pompons.

Among those in the crowd was medical student Kevin Wymer, who craned his neck and looked on as he waited for a bus to Hyde Park.

“It’s pretty neat, but I don’t think I could do that,” the 23-year-old said.

Also in the crowd was Salvador Barrera, 24, and his two young children cheering for their mom, Evelyn Lozano.

Lozano, 25, is a housekeeper at the hotel and won a raffle for the chance to rappel down her workplace.

After she stepped back on solid ground, Lozano, of the Back of the Yards neighborhood, couldn’t stop smiling.

“I can’t believe I did this,” she said, her 6-year-old daughter, Denice, at her side.

Asked what she thought of mom, the little girl gave a thumbs up.

For Larry Mitchell, who has had relatives who died from emphysema, it was a chance to raise money and have an adventure.

“It was incredible,” the 60-year-old from Rogers Park said.

Meanwhile, Daly, who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2012, was thrilled to see Keller, who now lives in Atlanta.

When Keller was unhooked from her harness, she and Daly hugged tightly.

“I am so blessed to have her in my life,” Daly, of Park Ridge, said.


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