MERRILLVILLE — It only takes about 10 seconds to go from the top to the ground floor the Centier Corporate Centre tower by elevator.
But that’s no fun.
Instead, about 50 people traveled the same vertical distance Saturday down the side of the building harnessed to a two-rope rappelling system that raised excitement and more than $61,000 in donations for Northwest Indiana charities.
That includes Gov. Eric J. Holcomb, who accepted an invitation from the Mental Health America of Northwest Indiana team to raise awareness of continued local efforts to reduce infant mortality.
Holcomb appeared overjoyed to be back on Hoosier soil afterwards.
“It was a rush. You do a lot of things for the first time as governor. This is the kind of thing where you don’t want it to be the last,” he joked.
It was the second annual fundraising event for Lake Area United Way, The Food Bank, the Boys & Girls Club, Meals on Wheels, Mental Health America and Tradewinds Services Inc.
The Times of Northwest Indiana and Centier Bank are sponsors of the event.
One of the most daring participants was 58-year-old Elizabeth Cordoba who left her wheelchair on the roof of the five-story building near U.S. 30 and Interstate 65.
She made the controlled descent in the company of Lisa Brown, an employee of Over The Edge, a Canadian firm that ran the fundraiser, and Lisa Previs, a friend and co-worker of Cordoba, who works as a respite care specialist at Tradewinds.
The weather was less than ideal. Winds gusted to well over 20 mph. Cordoba admitted, after she was back on terra firma, “It was scary, but I got people who had my back. That was great.”
Cordoba, who was born in Colombia, was paralyzed 28 years ago when accidentally shot in the back.
She later emigrated to the United States and works for Tradewinds. She told The Times last month she has a fear of heights even on the safety of an elevated pedestrian bridge, but chose to take part in Saturday’s event to help raise money for low-income working families.
The Times' Local News Editor Marc Chase also strapped on the harness and wasted no time going down the side of one of Northwest Indiana's largest buildings. Also participating were Chicago Blackhawks mascot Tommy Hawk, State Rep. Mara Candalaria-Reardon and other area residents.
The first to take the plunge was Reggy, the mascot of the Whiting’s Mascot Hall of Fame. He spent four minutes bouncing off the bank’s glass facade and waving to onlookers below.
Once on the ground, he greeted Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura, who kept his feet planted firmly on the ground, and performed for the crowd through much of the morning activities.
Clear skies and wind chills in the mid 30s greeted the participants Saturday.
Over the Edge, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, organized the technical aspects of this urban rappelling, non-traditional fundraising method.
Laura Kendricks, a rope tech for the firm, talked the participants through the basics of how to wear the harness, work the ropes and friction equipment levers to control their downward movement.
“I got roped into this myself about a decade ago as a volunteer,” Kendricks said.
The Lake Area United Way first brought Over the Edge fundraiser to Northwest Indiana last year, raising about $50,000 to provide child care services for struggling working families in Lake County.
According to LAUW President and CEO Lisa Daugherty, the event attracted more than 570 donors this year with participants still looking for more donors.
"It has been a great success,” she said.