Radio DJ Conquers Fear of Heights for SOMO

Brad Hildebrand

Brad Hildebrand rappels down the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch

In 2011, Brad Hildebrand took his first journey rappelling down 20 stories in downtown St. Louis. Why? To go Over the Edge for Special Olympics Missouri.

Over the Edge is a one-of-a-kind yearly event where participants raise a minimum of $1,000 so they can rappel down a multiple-story building. Participants not only get an adrenaline-pumping adventure but also raise money to help fund Special Olympics Missouri athletes.

Brad works for KSLQ in St. Louis and promotes a variety of different charities on his radio show. Back when he first started, Brad joined another radio station’s team to go Over the Edge so he could conquer his fear of heights.

“Quite honestly, the first time I ever did it, maybe I had a selfish motive; I wanted to raise money for Special Olympics but I also have a fear of heights. So I tried to overcome my fear of heights,” said Brad.

Much like how Brad conquered his fear of heights, Special Olympics athletes are conquering their fears and are smashing the stigma that many have associated with intellectual disabilities every time they compete in Special Olympic Missouri events.

This year’s event will mark Brad’s seventh year straight going Over the Edge for Special Olympics Missouri. Now, he is part of KSLQ’s own team that has been participating together since 2013. Every year, they are helping to make the event bigger and better by recruiting more people to join their team and raising more money for the cause.

Over the years, Brad has personally raised money by doing a lot of on-air fundraising. He also raised money by promoting the event on his social media outlets. At one point in time, he offered an advertisement deal that advertisers would buy a fundraising package that would benefit the cause.

His team has been able to raise money by talking about the event on-air since some of them are radio hosts as well. Others fundraise through networking with people they know.

Last year, his team was able to set a new personal record by raising over $11,000 and recruiting eight people to rappel on their team. This year, they are have already started their fundraising efforts for the event and are looking to double what they did last year by raising $22,000 and recruiting 16 people to rappel.

Brad enjoys the camaraderie he feels with his Over the Edge team and likes to feel like he’s making a difference in the lives of others.

“People will say ‘My cousin is a Special Olympian or my kid is a Special Olympian and thank you so much for doing what you’re doing,’” Brad said. “It’s always sort of a nice feeling you know, to have that feedback that you’re making a difference hopefully and people are appreciating it as well too.”

This year, Brad and his team will rappel down the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch on October 7. People also have the chance to raise money and rappel down the Jefferson State Office Building in Jefferson City on October 14.

To learn more and sign up to have your own thrilling and fun adventure, visit http://www.somo.org/edge

Be Brave: Go Over the Edge!

Sandy KarstenFor Lt. Col. Sandy Karsten of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, rappelling 13 stories down the Jefferson State Office building is a way to be more like Special Olympics athletes, who practice courage every day.

“If they can do it, I can do it,” she says.

Karsten is referring to Over the Edge, an adrenaline-pumped event in which participants raise $1,000 to rappel down a prominent building. Proceeds benefit Special Olympics Missouri.

“Have you ever gotten a hug from a Special Olympics athlete? If you’ve ever presented a medal, you see how happy they are and you celebrate the success with them,” she says. “You see what your dollar does for those special people. It gives you a good feeling to support them.”

Karsten’s colleagues had been participating in the Polar Plunge for years, but she declined because she does not do well with cold water. When she heard about Over the Edge, she felt like this was a good opportunity to take a more active role in raising funds. While $1,000 can seem like a daunting amount, Karsten says it’s mostly a matter of talking to people.

“Don’t be afraid to ask people,” she says. “I wear Special Olympics apparel – it’s a great conversation starter while you’re standing in line at the grocery store. I talk about my involvement with the (Law Enforcement) Torch Run. I’ve gone to people we do business with and told them about Special Olympics being our charity of choice. Most people are eager to assist.”

She says her department has hosted trivia nights, dunking booths, bake sales and poker rallies. They try to infuse fun into raising money, which helps them look forward to the event each year.

SandyThe event is offered in St. Louis and Jefferson City each fall. This year, participants have the choice of rappelling down the Jefferson State Office Building on Oct. 15 or the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch on Oct. 29. Both venues offer spectacular views and the opportunity to see the cities from a unique perspective.

“If you’re brave enough to turn to the side, you can see the governor’s mansion and the river,” she says. “If you can stand to look down, you can see your supporters down there.”

This bravery mirrors the bravery that Special Olympics athletes display each time they step onto the playing field. They’re overcoming stigma of having an intellectual disability and decades upon decades of stereotypes that have oppressed people like them. Special Olympics gives them the opportunity to shine, showcase their abilities and be celebrated for who they are.

Rappelling down a tall building can seem daunting, especially for anyone who has a fear of heights. Karsten has some advice for putting yourself in the right mental space before a rappel. She practiced by doing a rock climbing wall at her local YMCA.

“For everyone, there is a short training session, and that’s when I get nervous,” she says. “But that leaves after you feel comfortable with the harness and trust the rigging.   When you get up on the wall to go down, you just remember your training, and gravity takes care of the rest.”

Karsten says that talking about the event afterward is important as well. She lets people know how much fun she had and ensures that her donors feel appreciated.

“Now that I’ve done it three times, people ask me, ‘Hey are you rappelling for Special Olympics again?  How much is needed to put you Over the Edge?’”

You can learn more and register to participate in Over the Edge at www.somo.org/edge.

Sgt. Mark Koeller Receives John Michael Letz Unsung Hero Award

The John Michael Letz Award was established in December 1994 for the purpose of recognizing an individual whose unselfish efforts and contributions are directly responsible for the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) for Special Olympics Missouri. It is our unsung hero award.

The Torch Run Committee elected to name this award after Michael because of his long-time efforts while serving on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Dept. and who died from cancer. The St. Louis Trivia night fundraiser was his creation. It continues still today, raising over $150,000 since its inception. There are Trivia Nights all over Missouri as well as in other states now as a result of the one started in St. Louis.

The first recipient of this award was Ralph Biele who was instrumental in starting Missouri’s Torch Run 27 years ago.  Previous recipients are:

Ralph Biele                             Rich Banahan                         John Cira

Mary Branstetter                     Randy Boehm                        David Pudlowski

Janelle Waterman                  Graham Burnley                     Jim Moran

Jim McCart                             Zim Schwartze                       Tim Goebel

Randy Werner                        Rick Hayes                             Don Spears

Jim McNiell                            Joseph Chapman

The criteria for recipients include:

  • Responsible for significant fundraising results
  • Participates in year-round support
  • Exemplifies the Special Olympics mission
  • Someone who is a visionary for the Torch Run
  • Someone whose source of motivation comes from helping the athletes

We have many who are Torch Run enthusiasts; most we don’t know.  We don’t know them because they don’t do the work for the recognition – and that’s why they are deserving of the Letz Award. They are always in the background working to do more.

Sgt. Mark Koeller with his sister, mother, daughter and wife at the LETR Awards Brunch

Sgt. Mark Koeller with his sister, mother, daughter and wife at the LETR Awards Brunch

This year’s recipient was announced at the LETR Awards Brunch on Dec. 6 at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. Sgt. Mark Koeller, of the St. Louis County Police Department, has been involved in the Torch Run for 12 years. He was recognized as the Region Unsung Hero after 6 years of Torch Run involvement. Sgt. Koeller has served as his agency’s co-coordinator, participating and recruiting in every event his agency is involved in. He volunteers to present medals at the State Summer Games as well as Area Spring Games. Sgt. Koeller has coordinated the law enforcement honor guard participation at the State Summer Games Opening Ceremonies for the past nine years.

What sets him apart is his contribution outside his agency’s involvement – hosting, organizing or recruiting other officers and agencies. Sgt. Koeller coordinated a regional truck convoy event with four agencies for five years that brought in sponsors, agencies, truckers and athletes and raised $22,429. He created a new route of the Torch Run in 2010, covering a new part of the region and recruiting 48 runners from 15 agencies. He helped start and still serves on the steering committee for SOMO’s first Over the Edge event, which has raised $511,000 in four years. Sgt. Koeller got his whole family involved and helped fundraise for his mom and wife so their experience going Over the Edge would be a life-changing one.

According to his nominator:  “This person doesn’t wait to be asked, he is committed and dedicated to the cause.  Whether he is protecting runners with his police car, carrying the torch, scaling a building, a cop on top, selling T-shirts, organizing/distributing/motivating for his agency, he gives his all with the mind-set of ‘whatever it takes.’”

He is a quiet leader who continues to challenge himself and others to work hard, be creative and dream of what is possible for Special Olympics.  He is a valuable team member who makes those around him better.

Be extreme. Live fearless. Go Over the Edge! An interview with Marilyn Seaton

Being “too old” can no longer serve as an excuse to avoid going Over the Edge! 72-year-old Marilyn Seaton is walking proof. As she says, “Age is just a number.”

Marilyn became interested in going OTE after watching her friend scale the Four Seasons Hotel at Lumiere Place in St. Louis last year. Her friend was 71 at the time. Marilyn’s personal trainer, Steven Buckner, also encouraged her to give it a try. These two sources of inspiration, coupled with a background in supporting Special Olympics Missouri, convinced Marilyn to add “scaling a building” to her bucket list.

In order to cross it off her list, Marilyn was faced with two steps:

Step 1: Fundraise $1,000.

In typical Marilyn fashion, she has already surpassed the minimum and AND sailed past her goal of $3,000! Visit her fundraising page here.

“I work for the Missouri Legislature, so when word went out about me doing this, there became a little competition between my co-workers to see what they were going to do to help,” Marilyn says. Aside from having a little healthy competition at work, Marilyn also sought the support of friends and family. Marilyn found that people are quick to support Over the Edge because, “It is something different, fun, and for a good cause.”

Step 2: Prepare yourself, both physically and emotionally.

In order to do this, Marilyn’s personal trainer has been helping her increase her arm strength and has walked her through what she should expect. In fact, she is going get a little practice before the big day. “We are going to practice off of a 10 foot wall first,” Marilyn said. She can’t promise that she won’t have some jitters the morning of, but for now, Marilyn is not nervous.

Marilyn is a daring woman who can serve as inspiration. Don’t let your age or anything else become an obstacle; do something daring! Whether you have a bucket list to complete or just a desire to help others while doing something fun, we encourage you to challenge yourself by going Over the Edge!

Learn more about how you can go Over the Edge in one of three cities across the state.

Be extreme. Live fearless. Go Over the Edge! An interview with Gracson Morris

Gracson Morris is an employee at Cummins Mid-South based in Memphis, TN. When his boss asked him to go Over the Edge in 2011, he not only took on the challenge, he became the top fundraiser for the entire state. Below, he takes us through his experience.

My boss, Tom Owens, VP of Operations for our Northern Division, approached me about the opportunity to participate in the event.  It seemed like a very cool opportunity.  Also, our company has a great attitude around fundraising and I knew that we would have tons of support … especially for such a fun event.

Our company wanted to raise a total of $10,000 originally. We had a blast drumming up support for this event.  Due to my travel volume, I’m out at our locations frequently.  So, I’ve been able to meet a lot of our employees.  I think since they know me pretty well, they had more fun donating knowing the person it was going to support.  Additionally, we had a lot of fun with email communication across the company.

Have fun with it.  Make it a “joke” by having the person(s) going Over the Edge the butt of jokes (e.g. Help push Person X Over the Edge!  Support the fall of “Person X”).  We did that (of course all in fun), but people enjoyed donating to this “gag” and it drove the donations through the roof.

The best part of the experience was meeting some of the athletes that participate in Special Olympics events.  We can learn a lot from those folks … they rarely have a bad day, always smiling.  They can help you see beyond the small frustrations of our daily lives.  As for being scared, I was not scared until I had to lean back over the edge of the building.  That was terrifying!  I got over it by just doing it.  I didn’t really have an option once I was harnessed up, looking over the edge, and hearing the cheers of the 8-10 folks that came to watch me.

I would definitely consider participating again.  We probably would have started raising money sooner!  We could really have blown the records away.

You can have this experience, too! Over the Edge will take place in three cities this fall: Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City. Learn more at www.somo.org/edge

Be extreme. Live fearless. Go Over the Edge! An interview with Andrea Tarry

Andrea Tarry has been involved with SOMO for several years in a number of capacities. But in 2010 and 2011, she took her support to new heights by going Over the Edge of The Clubhouse on Baltimore in downtown Kansas City.

In 2011, Andrea’s dedication made her the top fundraiser at the Kansas City event! Read on to learn how she surpassed her fundraising goal.

Q. Why did you decide to go Over the Edge? A. I am a parent of an athlete. I went over in 2010. Afterward, I decided that this was the event that I would like to continue doing instead of the Polar Plunge. I plunged in 2009, and it wasn’t my thing!

Q. You were the top fundraiser for the Kansas City event. What drove you to really go above & beyond in your fundraising efforts? A. The company I work for rallies around my efforts. They match all employees donations dollar-for-dollar. They will also make up the difference to make sure that I hit the minimum of $1,000.

Q. What advice would you give to this year’s participants? A. Don’t be afraid to ask for donations.  The worst answer you get is NO!

Q. What was the best part of the experience? Were you scared at all? A. It is truly an adrenaline rush!! 2010 was a piece of cake. 2011 was nerve-wracking, but never scary. I always love an adventure.

Questioning My Sanity for Special Olympics

Lourin Sprenger is a volunteer, fan and TV personality from KQ2 in St. Joseph

“OK, Lourin, I’m going to need you to stand on the ledge now,” says the man clipping a rope to my body 200 some feet in the air. 

“Uh . . . no thanks?” I say.

OVER THE EDGE

Raising money for SOMO!

You think that raising the $1,000 is going to be the hurdle you have to overcome. But three years, three attempts to get back in the elevator and run for the hills, and three thousand dollars later, I’ve remembered it’s just that – going OVER. THE. EDGE. That is the tricky part.

Standing on the ledge of a building, I have to attempt to look somewhat cool, after all I am a news anchor who needs to impress her audience. If my viewers see me choke, what credibility do I have? Too bad “playing cool” was left on the ground floor and I’m on the 15th. Standing on the roof, I’m in a cold sweat. They tell me to raise my right hand, I raise my left. My heart’s about to rocket out of my chest. What’s my name again?

Then, I start the blame game. Who thought of this fundraiser anyway? Why would anyone want to throw themselves off a building?

Give me just a minute . . . or twenty!

Oh, wait, I do . . .
(Insert string of R-rated words.)

It doesn’t matter that I have done it twice before. I stood on the lip of the building for 20 minutes and wouldn’t let go. “She’s not going to do it,” one spectator said in the crowd waiting on me below. “She’s not coming down.”

Honestly, that man was probably right … Until my rappel coach (I love you James!) asked me WHY I was doing it.

Then my eyes teared up, this time not out of fear, but out of pride for the athletes that I had raised (and since we’re being honest … begged everyone I knew shamelessly) the money for.

My heroes! Tanner and Chris.

This event wasn’t about me overcoming my fear … About a media story … Or even for bragging rights. I was doing it for my family here – for people like Tanner Hrenchir and Chris Ringot – the ones that make me laugh no matter how bad my day, and inspire me to push beyond my limits to do things (like dangling off a skyscraper) I never thought I could do.

So I count to three, and imagine their faces. And – I’m over.

Letting go is the hard part … then the fun begins.

Coasting to the ground, you can relish in your success and the strength the athletes have given you.

To me, that’s what Special Olympics Missouri is all about.

It’s the cheers and hugs you get at the bottom that keep you coming back for more. And I’m still riding that high.

I’ve already told SOMO I’m signing up next year. Right before I filed for insanity.

I suggest you try it. Over the Edge first, then the insanity.

I promise, you won’t regret it.

Oh – and even though I told you the truth, my news audience may be thinking otherwise. So, lets keep this our little secret.

Here’s the version they got.