Community

From 31 stories up, rappellers will step off Lexington's big blue building

The view from the 31st floor looking down the side of the Lexington Financial Center where Bill Alley, 74, will be the oldest participant in the Brave the Blue  event with people rappellling down the building, photographed on Thursday October 17, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
The view from the 31st floor looking down the side of the Lexington Financial Center where Bill Alley, 74, will be the oldest participant in the Brave the Blue event with people rappellling down the building, photographed on Thursday October 17, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

At age 74, Bill Alley is going over the edge.

On Thursday, Alley will go to the top of Lexington's big blue building, climb onto a ledge and take a 410-foot leap.

He will be safe in a harness, and his care will be in the hands of a professional rappelling crew. Still, when shown a photograph of the long descent, Alley's response was: "Whoa."

But Alley, an insurance agent, has not been deterred. He is to be the oldest participant of what organizers hope will be a $100,000 fund-raiser for Boy Scouts of America Blue Grass Council. The council serves 11,000 Scouts in 55 counties. One hundred percent of proceeds benefit local Scouts.

Two hundred fifty people have registered for a chance to rappel down the tallest building in Lexington on Wednesday and Thursday, said Dan Koett, chief marketing director for the Blue Grass Council. The first 100 to raise at least $1,000 will get the opportunity. Some will rappel down the building Wednesday; others, including Alley, on Thursday. Big L of the Legends and the Chick-fil-A cow will be the last down. Mill Street between Main and Vine streets will be closed for an observation area.

Koett said the local group got the idea for Brave the Blue after seeing a similar event in Ohio.

There is a bit of a connection between the Boy Scouts and the fund-raiser.

"We are Boy Scouts," Koett said. "We rappel from just about anything."

Matt Roberts, chief operating officer with the Scouts, said people think of building campfires and setting up tents when they think of Scouts; they "don't think of the high adventure of Scouting, the rappelling, the whitewater rafting."

Alley's experiences as a Boy Scout and as a member of the Rotary Club, which has long supported the Scouts, seeded his interest. But Alley, who has gone bungee jumping, also saw it as an opportunity to do something he has never done before.

That's the same for Claire Kelley, who at 16 is the youngest person signed up.

Claire, a junior at Shelby County High School, is a Venturer. She joined the Venture program, a coed program offered by the Scouts, because "I wanted to do all the fun things my brother got to do" as a Boy Scout.

She has rappelled before, but nothing quite as high as the big blue building. When she asked friends and family to help support her cause, they thought she was a bit crazy. But, she said, she's glad to go against her image "as the girl who studies and has straight A's."

The rappelling will be controlled by Over the Edge, a group that puts on similar fund-raisers across the country. Tim White, operations manager for Over the Edge, said there is only a short practice drop from a parking garage before Alley, Claire and other participants Brave the Blue. He said safety is paramount. His advice for participants? "Trust the OTE (Over the Edge) technicians" and "don't listen to nay-sayers."

The trip down the Lexington Financial Center will take between 10 and 15 minutes. Participants can't weigh less than 110 or more than 300 pounds. The rappelling technicians will use a two-rope system that allows them to slow the descent if it becomes too fast.

"Most of the people who do it are just average citizens," White said. "Ninety to 95 percent of people who do this have never rappelled before."

  Comments