The Milwaukee Rescue Mission (MRM) held an “Over The Edge” fundraising event on June 17 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, where participants rappelled from the 20th floor of the hotel to support the organization’s work.

Over The Edge provides rappelling events for nonprofits across North America, and has helped organizations raise more than $100 million since 2008. A typical one-day event can collect more than $100,000 with an average of only 65 participants.

For 2021, the Milwaukee Rescue Mission hosted its fundraising event downtown, using the east side of the Hilton Milwaukee City Center to rappel from the 20th floor. MRM’s goal was to raise $150,000 to support its community services. The online event page displayed a total just short of that when the first rappellers began their descent.

“We’re excited to be hosting this event,” said Patrick Vanderburgh, President of the MRM. “Hundreds of men, women, and children in our area are struggling. Going ‘Over The Edge’ is a great opportunity for us to get the word out about the need in our community. And the event is a wonderful way to help us raise money for the services we provide those folks who are hurting.”

Over The Edge and their team of Certified Rope Access Technicians have hosted more than a thousand rappelling events, and maintained a spotless safety record through their 13 years of operation.

The Milwaukee rappellers invited family and friends, who joined with downtown spectators, to cheer on each individual who climbed down on the long rope. Participants were required to raise a minimum of $1,000 in order to take part, or nominate someone to rappel on their behalf.

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a chance for many to face their fear of heights. All funds raised go towards programs and services to assist members of the community who have been devastated by homelessness.

The Milwaukee Rescue Mission has provided shelter and services for homeless and ailing families since 1893. At the Main Campus at 19th and Wells Streets, Safe Harbor offers emergency shelter and long-term care to homeless men, while Joy House serves homeless women and children.

Guests receive food, shelter, spiritual direction, job-skills training, and other services to give them a fresh start. Each year, MRM provides around 365,000 meals and approximately 50,000 nights of shelter.

In addition to MRM’s Main Campus, the North Campus on 15th and Center Streets houses Cross Trainers Academy, a school for at-risk children from K4 to 12th grade. The Equip community resource programs are also located at the North Campus and provide tutoring, meals and food distribution, job resources, and basic necessities.

As a preview of the event, local media was invited to go “Over The Edge” on June 16. The Milwaukee Independent’s reporter Julia Papillon took part, and it was her first time to rappel from any height. This photo essay showcases moments from the preview event. The 360° video of Julia’s descent offers a virtual experience of what it is like to rappel one of Milwaukee’s oldest hotels.

Lee Matz

Julia Papillon