Going Over The Edge: Rappelling 300 Feet Down a Skyscraper in Downtown Indianapolis

By Maddie Koss, United Way of Central Indiana Digital Communications & Content Specialist


I really felt invincible up there, creeping down the mirrored windows of a 23-story building in downtown Indianapolis. 


Except, of course, for my legs, which were shaking so badly it mimicked that of an earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or larger. 


You see, I don’t hate adventure – in fact I tell people all the time that I’m willing to try something at least once. But the idea of being 300 feet in the air, strapped into a harness, being held up by nothing but two ropes and my upper body strength – or lack thereof – scared me. Then I remembered what I was rappelling for. 


Last summer, I rappelled down the Keystone Group building as part of United Way of Central Indiana’s Over the Edge fundraiser – which raised more than $140,000 to help support United Way’s Basic Needs Fund. 


I ignored the fact that my parents were watching me live on Facebook or that I very well could have wet my pants while rappelling down. I was doing this for a good cause. 


It wasn’t easy getting to the top of the building, though. I was panicking out loud as I was being strapped into the harness. My mind was racing, trying to take mental notes during our 15-minutes of practice. The pulley system is designed with our safety in mind, but will I remember how to push and pull the levers in order to get down? My heart nearly pounded out of my chest as I walked up to the platform. “I really should’ve worn an adult diaper”, I said to myself.


Then it was time to stand on the edge. 


I focused solely on the instructions from the Over the Edge volunteers, acting as though they were my mom comforting me from a bad dream when I was little. 


They told me to straighten my legs to be perpendicular from the building. As someone who hates math, I pretended I didn’t know what that meant. 


The volunteer laughed and said, “at least your eye make-up is pretty”. 


With the newly found false sense of confidence, I walked back to the edge until only the tips of my shoes were on the roof. As I fought against my “jelly” legs, I looked to my right to see my co-worker Megan telling me it’s going to be okay. 


At this point, without my knowledge, I was diagonally hanging off the building, clinging to the rope harder than I’ve ever held anything before. 


But then something weird happened. Standing high atop the city skyline, I felt calm. 


I had a co-worker who doubled as a friend, telling me not to be afraid. My boss was rappelling right next to me, giving me a thumbs up. I could hear another co-worker yelling my name at the bottom, cheering me on. 


I took it all in. 


I was surrounded by a community of people – who not only wanted to see me succeed, but who were there for the very same reason I was – to raise money to help provide the essentials to our most vulnerable neighbors.  


Going Over the Edge is symbolic for two reasons: for how we can all take the plunge to make a difference in our community and, for how we all need to rally together to make it through the highs and the lows – getting over the edge.