There aren’t many opportunities to scale down the side of a building, let alone a 32-floor hotel in Orlando. I went ‘Over the Edge’ for Give Kids the World and the experience was once in a lifetime.
Give Kids the World Village is an organization close to Orlando’s heart. The Village provides free week-long vacations and lodging to critically-ill children and their families to they visit Central Florida’s theme parks. The organization hosts an annual event to raise money and to honor the children who stay at the Village.
On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2021, I went over the edge with my mask on.
When I rode the elevator in the Hyatt Regency Orlando up to check-in for my rappel time and training, my ears popped and the butterflies in my stomach arrived.
Getting the gear on was a swift process on the 26th floor. I was given an event shirt, strapped into my harness, given gloves and a GoPro 360 camera attached to the top of my helmet.
After everything was secure, I headed up a couple more floors to the rooftop for a short training session a few feet off the ground. Here, I learned how to pull myself down the rope and the safety mechanisms that were in place to keep me secure on the side of the building – a trust-building exercise to ensure I was comfortable with everything I needed to do.
Preparing to go over the edge was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole experience. I was attached to the ropes and all connections were double-checked by a team from Over the Edge, as I mentally prepared to start descending.
Slowly, we began the process of mustering up the courage to begin to rappel. I started by sitting on the ledge, then standing fully upright, followed by squatting down with my heels off the building, all guided by the team from Over the Edge. With some encouragement from the team up top and a quick photo before I set off, I began to walk down the side of the hotel, slowly but surely.
Thirty-two floors up is quite the journey back down. It took around 20 minutes for me to go from top to bottom, scaling ledges and windowsills every few feet. I recorded a 360-degree video during my rappel, where you can see and experience the heights with me.
At 5-foot-5, I found some parts of the rappel more challenging than others, mainly after I passed a ledge and then couldn’t reach the windows to walk down. In those moments I was relying on floating down until I became close enough to put my feet on the building again.
The view was amazing! I rappelled at 5:30 p.m., right as the sun began to set. Walt Disney World was over my right shoulder while Universal Orlando Resort was over my left. The sun reflected off the building so I was able to see landmarks from both parks in the reflection of the windows, too.
Overall, the experience was exhilarating, while at the same time, terrifying. Once I got the hang of the rappelling process, my nerves set aside—mostly—and I enjoyed the journey down. The cheers from spectators on the ground was a rewarding feeling, as well as having my feet back on the ground. If I had the chance I would definitely rappel again, though I would probably still be just as nervous.
Participants interested in going “over the edge” will need to raise $1,000 and pay a small registration fee. The event takes place each year and more information can be found at GKTW.org/OverTheEdge.