On Friday afternoon, it hadn’t quite set in that I would be rappelling down an iconic Dallas landmark, the Reunion Tower. I hadn’t told many friends or family I would be doing what some have said was wild or crazy. I don’t think I was even convinced I was doing it myself. That day I finally gave in and Google’d the height of the dang tower. 561ft. That’s 50 floors guy, but I did it all for an amazing cause.
Shatterproof is an organization founded by Gary Mendell after losing his son Brian to drug addiction at the young age of 25. After his passing, Gary realized that unlike other organizations dedicated toward the awareness and education of diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, there wasn’t anything like that for those suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Now Shatterproof is providing a voice for those that most would dismiss as self-inflicted ailments. It’s time to end the stigma.
To promote awareness through community events, Shatterproof put on the rappelling challenge across multiple cities in the U.S. starting with the tallest rappel they’ve ever done . This would be the third time in Dallas and the first time at the Reunion Tower. Only 100 people and some very lucky media folks would be able to free rappel down 50 stories. Each person rappelling would have to raise a certain amount of money to secure a spot.
During my interview with Gary, it was incredible and sad to hear his story about his son Brian, but the journey that loss has taken him is astounding. He’s been able to pass legislation in nine states so far, with two more by the end of the year that would save more lives. You can learn more about their accomplishments here.
Here are some mind-boggling stats I bet you didn’t know about those suffering from addiction:
- More than 22 million people suffer from addiction according to a 2013 stat.
- 135,000 Americans die from alcohol and other drugs every year. That’s 370 people a day.
- The societal cost to help those suffering from alcohol and other drug addiction is estimated in excess of $415 billion per year.
And ya know, what? All those deaths are preventable. Shatterproof’s goal is to reduce all of that by 50 percent over the next 20 years. So far they’ve raised 15 million over the last two years with a goal to raise 7 million more this year. Dallas donations contribute 225,000 toward that goal so far. While there may be support groups like AA, Shatterproof hopes to provide more funding for rescue, treatment, and prevention.
So back to the actual experience. Words cannot describe how incredible it was up there. I was taken into a room with my partner Hillary Juster, a special writer for the CW33 to gear up. We were strapped into harnesses, provided with gloves and a helmet. We were checked multiple times for safety and assured it was absolutely safe and easy to learn.
Once we were on the Geo deck aka the big ball, we couldn’t bring along our phones and not allowed to bring anything that could possible fall (i.e. phone), or hurt us (jewelry, glass cases, etc). Fortunately, I had some really nice people offer to take photos of us!
The metaphor associated with rappelling and drug addiction is that the first step (toward recovery or off the geo deck) is always the hardest. And it sure was! I could NOT look down and I knew I couldn’t back out either. The thrill seeker in me would not let me back out and I hate having regrets (note the sign above). The scariest part for me was getting up that ladder.
Guys, my leg is literally hanging off the side of the geo deck. I couldn’t look down.
I struggled to get my other leg over and just let go. But I suppose that’s the whole point. We had radios on us to check in, and the crew is able to get us down if there was an emergency. As in, I pass out mid air and just cannot keep it together. Fortunately, that didn’t happen!
The ropes were so heavy. Turns out they DO make rope that long and since I am super light, I would have to tug the rope up myself for a while until it becomes easier to just glide down.
I think my reaction to pain, nervousness, anxiety is laughter. Ha. Lots of WTF’s running through my mind at this point. Insert lots of nervous giggling.
I’m kicking myself for not getting a GoPro in time for this experience. You would’ve seen an amazing view of Dallas and recorded my heavy breathing from rappelling down. Oh, and of course, all the expletives. It was a surreal experience up there. I took those precious moments to take in the view of Downtown. I enjoyed the quiet hum of the city and savored those moments. It was just me and my thoughts, feeling completely free in the sky.
You feel so small in such a vast space and while I still did not look directly down, I only looked up and around me. As I continued down, we could see our reflections on the side of the reunion tower and the Hyatt Regency. It was metaphoric in that we also reflected on ourselves and what Shatterproof is fighting so hard for.
The experience provided a fresh perspective for me. It was absolutely exhilarating being to do something I most likely won’t ever have the chance to do again. And to be able to share this experience in PSA form really makes me love what I do: telling stories. If you feel compelled, you can donate to the cause here.
What did you think of this experience? Would you rappel 50 floors? Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think!