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When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?
And I mean really stepped out. (An impromptu stop at a grocery store you never patronize doesn’t count, no matter how foreign the layout of the produce section seemed or how hard it was for you to locate the cereal aisle.)
I’m talking about the kind of experience that floods you with equal parts panic and elation. The kind of experience that makes you say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” because it seems so completely out of character. The kind of experience that fills you with pride for days, weeks, years afterward and gives you something cool to talk about at dinner parties.
Done anything like that lately? If it’s been a while – or maybe ever – maybe it’s time to sign up for something wonderfully wild and crazy (but also totally safe and responsible). Something like, say, rappelling down a 13-story building in downtown Portland.
Rappel for Rippleffect returns May 16 after a successful inaugural event last year. The event last spring saw 86 rappellers go over the edge of One City Center (all also found their way safely to ground level again. That’s important to note, too). It also raised $125,000 for Rippleffect, a local nonprofit dedicated to youth and community development through experiential education and outdoor adventure (Read: Learning while doing. Outside).
That money helped Rippleffect grow its programming and reach even more kids in Maine. “What it really enabled us to do was offer more scholarships to kids for all of our different programming,” said Adam Shepherd, Rippleffect’s director of advancement. “All of our programs for youth are in some way subsidized by our fundraising. We wouldn’t be able to offer day camps at the cost we offer them without fundraising support. So it really was a huge part of our being accessible to more Maine kids.”
Basically, rappellers get to have an amazing experiential adventure and the money they raise helps kids in Maine have amazing experiential adventures. Everyone wins. And everyone gets to have an experience they’ll talk about for years.
Rappellers need to raise a minimum of $1,000 to participate. While that sounds like a hard-to-reach chunk of change, Shepherd said it’s not as unattainable as it sounds. “It is such a unique fundraising event, it’s so novel, that when people were putting this out to potential donors (last year), the donors were saying, ‘Absolutely! I want to see you rappel down the side of a building!'”
Shepherd noted that every rappeller who signed up last year was ultimately able to raise the minimum amount – and then some.
And if it’s the 13 stories you’re daunted by, Shepherd says you can conquer those, too.
“We had people who went over the edge who had a true, profound concern about heights,” he said. But it’s Rippleffect’s mission to encourage kids and adults to step out of their comfort zones, take on those challenges and seem them through. “This is what we do,” he said. “It’s what our kids do out on Cow Island, learning how to sea kayak or going rock climbing or on a four-day backpacking trip into the White Mountains. They’re stepping out of their comfort zone.”
The day of the rappel, participants will be guided through every step of the process. “We’re going to have someone with you from the time you put on your harness to when your feet touch the ground,” said Shepherd. Rappellers will have plenty of positive reinforcements along the way.
( Last year, 86 people rappelled down One City Center. Not one person backed out.)
This year, after rappellers muster the courage to sit back in their harness high above Federal Street, they’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable experience.
“We heard from a lot of people that it was the most unique fundraising experience they’ve ever been a part of,” said Shepherd. And for the rest of their lives, whenever they’re walking around Portland, they’re going to look up and remember that they rappelled down those 13 stories.
And that’s something to brag about.
WHEN: Saturday, May 16 (the event runs all day, with two rappellers descending at a time).
WHERE: One City Center, Portland
HOW MUCH: There are still spots available for interested rappellers. Registration is $25 and participants will need to raise a minimum of $1000 (which includes the $25 registration fee).
If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground but still want to support the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about volunteering at or sponsoring the event.