Taking a Leap of Faith

Charity event raises money for local youth

Standing 33 stories above the streets of downtown San Diego, Erica Davis prepares to take the ultimate plunge.

Seconds after a crew member gives her some final tips, she begins to descend.

As she begins to rappel down the side of the tallest building on the west coast waterfront, the Manchester Grand Hyatt, she doesn’t seem nervous.

After scaling down the building, Davis makes a clean landing on the fourth floor in no time.

Once she hits the ground, the wheel-chaired woman moves toward a crowd of cameras and spectators for brief interviews.

Davis’ journey down just over two dozen stories is meant to be a symbolic gesture, proving the underlining message of the thrill seeker charity event, Over the Edge for KIT.

“It’s all about recognizing the ability in everyone,” said event organizer, Alicia Cook, “ just because you may be in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you’re any different and I feel Davis’ experience wouldn’t differ from yours or mine.”

Keeping Kids Together, KIT for short, is a non-profit organization whose purpose it is to promote and support recreational and youth development programs that include children with and without disabilities.

From 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, 100 people who helped raise money for KIT will follow down the same path Davis went Friday morning. They’ll start 33 stories high in the sky on the south tower of the Hyatt before descending down vertically on the side of the building.

“I wanted to show people that if I can do it,” Davis said. “Then people should come out here and do it themselves.”

In truth, Davis isn’t just anybody, having been the first female paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, last year. Though the trek down the south tower of the Hyatt may have been easy for her, NBC’s own Whitney Southwick, who joined Davis on Friday, said it wasn’t all bad for him either.

“It was awesome, it really is,” said Southwick, “if you don’t look down too many times while you’re up there, you’ll do a lot better.”

Now in its third year, Over the Edge for KIT has brought many celebs and supporters out to face their fear for a good cause. On Saturday, Lauren Potter, an actress with Down Syndrome who plays cheerleader Becky Jackson on Glee, will participant.

Initially, the idea of sending people 33 feet down the side of building for charity came out of need to stand out, Cook said.

“We were in middle of a down economy that first year and we wanted something different than a gala or concert which we had done before… we took our own a leap of faith with this event and it has been working out ever since,” Cook said.

Family and friends of the participants will get the chance to call participants as they make their way down event sponsor LG's "Phone-a-Friend" station, essentially providing moral support for a person who’s taking a big step in order to help local youth.

Spectators can join in on the fun too with a watch party at a poolside spectator lounge on the fourth floor. The lounge will feature food and music during the event and a chance to greet rappellers once they’ve landed.

Though Over the Edge with KIT bills itself as a thrill seeker’s ultimate challenge, in the end, that’s not what the take away is for event participants.

“I had a smile on my face the whole time,” said Davis as she finished, “it’s all about giving back to kids and helping support.”

Over the Edge with Kit will run from 9 a.m. until noon at the Manchester Grand Hyatt's fourth floor in the America's Cup Foyer.

For more information on Over the Edge for Kit, check out the event's website.

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