SCRANTON — Feet and fears were suspended 14 stories above Spruce Street Saturday as brave souls and intrigued spectators gathered at the Bank Towers building to benefit NeighborWorks Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The inaugural Over the Edge Scranton event, co-organized by NeighborWorks and Over The Edge, saw 50 fundraisers of $1,000 or more rappel 146 feet down the city’s tallest building in the name of charity, bringing in more than $66,000 from rappellers and sponsorships. Additional money was raised from on-site sales of parking, T-shirts, beverages and food trucks.
NeighborWorks board member John Cosgrove said the event raised the most money the organization has seen from a single benefit in 33 years.
The Reverend Jeff Walsh of Scranton is a former marathon runner who was looking for a new challenge.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” Walsh said. “I was going cold turkey. I learned how much core strength and upper body strength it takes to do this.”
Walsh said the experience was fantastic and the event was well coordinated for an organization that does important work in the community.
Asia Wallace of Taylor is a first-hand beneficiary of that work. NeighborWorks helped Wallace make a down payment and cover closing costs on her first house.
“It was such a blessing,” Wallace said.
Wallace, now an avid volunteer and advocate for NeighborWorks, was certified in the non-profit’s Home Buyer Education program.
“Now I’m a Realtor,” Wallace said. “I sell houses for Berkshire Hathaway in Clarks Summit.”
The event was festive, featuring several food trucks, a DJ and the Holy Cross high school cheerleading squad performing numbers between descents.
There was even a roped off area, dubbed “The Chicken Coop,” where fundraisers too afraid to rappel gathered.
Wallace wore a chicken hat and offered her full support but stayed on the ground.
Tim Maloney of Scranton’s Green Ridge section took his courage to new heights with his wife, Samantha, and four children watching.
“I’ve done plenty of stupid things but nothing like this,” Maloney said. “I’d like to do it again.”
Samantha Maloney, reporting and compliance director for NeighborWorks, said it was awesome watching her husband scale down the building.
“The kids were excited,” she said. “I just hope they don’t try to mimic this at home.”
As rappellers confronted their nerves at various speeds, onlookers craned their necks to watch the action, snapping photos and taking video of friends and relatives.
One noteworthy spectacle was Laura Agostina of Scranton making her descent in full Wonder Woman regalia.
“It was one of those late night decisions,” she said. “I thought it would be fun to come down in costume.”
A sense of excitement permeated the atmosphere as adrenaline infused rappellers shed harnesses to discuss the experience with supporters.
NeighborWorks CEO Jesse Ergott had the vision to enlist Over The Edge in bringing a different type of benefit to Scranton.
“They were doing events in bigger cities, and we thought we could make it work here,” Ergott said. “We’ve exceeded our hopes for a first year event.”
The goal was to get people excited and bring energy to the downtown area, Ergott said.
“It’s nice to affirm that something like this can work in Scranton or Wilkes-Barre or anywhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Ergott said.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts