Sweetgrass bartender Jeffrey Goggans has no rappelling experience, but on November 13th, he'll be getting a fast lesson in the art of descending 225 feet with only a rope.
Goggans is one of about 50 people so far who have signed up to rappel down White Station Tower to raise funds for Greater Memphis Special Olympics. Rappellers pledge to raise $1,000 in exchange for a chance to scale the 24-story East Memphis office building.
"Part of the reason I thought I could do this is because I went skydiving once and that was pretty thrilling," Goggans said. "But I'm still a little nervous."
Greater Memphis Special Olympics is teaming up with the Canadian-based Over the Edge events company for the fund-raiser. Though it's the first time anything like this has been organized in Memphis, Over the Edge holds similar fund-raisers all over the country. The company scheduled 55 rappelling events this year.
Over the Edge handles all of the technical and safety aspects of the event, including insurance and equipment. Participants show up an hour before their scheduled rappel time for a quick lesson.
"Anybody can do this. It's very safe, and they can control the speed of your rappel," said Lisa Taylor, director of the Greater Memphis Special Olympics. "On the day of the event, we'll have a training area where you'll rappel off of the first floor so you can get used to it. When you're done, they'll take you in an elevator to the top, and you'll rappel down."
Taylor has a goal of signing up 65 people for the event, and at press time, a few slots were still open.
Colliers International, the property manager for White Station Tower, has been working to get the building approved by Over the Edge ever since Special Olympics approached them months ago.
"The approval process started in January, and, with the amount of paperwork involved, I probably could have been cleared to go to Syria," said Paul Mercer, senior property manager with Colliers International.
Mercer also has signed up to rappel despite his fear of heights. Mercer's office is in the building, and he's looked over the edge several times.
"People may look at the building and think, 'Oh, that's not bad,'" Mercer said. "But when you get to the edge and you're looking down, it's pretty high. I think I'm going to fast for about two days beforehand."
On the day before the official Over the Edge event, two Special Olympics athletes — Michael Hurt and Ron Roberts — will rappel down the building.
In a letter written to raise awareness about the event, Hurt wrote: "Just because I got a disability doesn't stops [sic] me from doing what regular people do everyday. That is why my friend Ron and I can go over the edge."