- Associated Press - Friday, December 1, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Thrill-seekers donating $1,000 or more to Special Olympics Louisiana had the opportunity Friday to rappel 25 stories down the side of a New Orleans building.

The daylong event, called “Over the Edge NOLA: S.W.A.T. Edition,” was co-hosted by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Kenner Police Department, which provided helicopters and safety and security personnel.

“It was pretty awesome stepping off the side of a building that I pass every day going to work,” said Joanna Dantin, among the first of more than 60 participants to rappel Benson Tower. “I’d do it again in a minute.”

Participants who qualified also had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride and “S.W.A.T. train” at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s facility near New Orleans.

Many participants set up fundraising pages to reach the $1,000 goal, among them Melissa Geiss and Anthony Leblanc, friends and co-workers at M.S. Benbow & Associates Consulting Engineers.

“We’re very involved in our community, and whatever we can do to help, so we raised money to do this,” Geiss said.

More than 60 participants had already checked in to rappel before noon. A few dressed in costume for the event, including a woman dressed as a fairy and Jack Serigne III, who sported red and blue tights and a blue “Super Dad” T-shirt.

“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, and I’m dressed for it,” Serigne said. “And it’s for a great cause. They could use the support and money for all the kids. I love it.”

Leblanc said the scariest part of the rappel was stepping off the edge of the building. He said he had a “death grip” on the lever and rope that control the speed of the rappel.

“My hands were red,” he said. “They were white-knuckled when I got down.”

The fundraiser, which has been held annually for about a decade, has raised as much as $100,000 in years past, said Casey Minton, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Louisiana, which provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics has 15,000 athletes throughout Louisiana and holds 103 competitions annually.

“Fundraisers like these fund those events,” Minton said. “They allow us to provide our competitions, our events, all of their travel, food, free of charge for all the athletes year-round.”


Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert contributed to this report.

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