Volunteers face fears, rappel ‘over the edge’ for Kids to Love
HUNTSVILLE — Local volunteers and VIPs committed to do something Sept. 21 and 22 that most people might find a little intimidating—rappelling 160 feet from atop the Regions Center in downtown Huntsville to raise money for Kids to Love.
The event was a first-time partnership between Kids to Love, a local nonprofit benefiting foster children, and Over the Edge, an “adventure experience” company that helps organizations like Kids to Love raise money to support their causes.
After watching Over the Edge fundraisers in other cities over the years, Kids to Love Founder and CEO Lee Marshall knew Huntsville would be a perfect fit for the thrilling fundraiser. She said 100 percent of the proceeds that rappellers raised will go straight to the foster children and programs that Kids to Love supports.
Some of these programs include KTECH, Christmas initiative, backpacks for school supplies and Davidson Farms, a 10,000-square-foot group home for girls located in Madison County.
“We have girls living there around the clock, and that’s a lot of resources that it takes to take care of our girls living there,” Marshall said. “A lot of the money that we raise will go toward that.”
KTECH is Kids to Love’s workforce initiative that helps young people who are aging out of foster care develop skill sets that they can use to go straight to the workforce. Lexandra Lutz, a foster kid who entered the system when she was 16, is gaining multiple marketable skills from the 16-week program. In addition to receiving her soldering certification, she is also learning mechanical and electrical engineering and plans to study robotics.
Lutz said she has been “very involved” with the foster care system since entering it. Not only does she advocate for foster youth across the state, but she also serves as the D.R.E.A.M. Council ambassador president. Recently, she finished an internship with Kids to Love.
“All the benefits that Kids to Love has to offer, I am receiving because I am a foster kid,” Lutz said. “Lee (Marshall) does an amazing job at making sure that foster kids get what they need—and in some aspects, want—that they can’t have.”
It’s helping kids like Lutz that inspired many citizens and local VIPs to participate in the Over the Edge fundraiser. Madison Mayor Paul Finley was one such person who willingly took on the challenge in the Sept. 21 VIP Drop Party.
“I’m a strong believer in Kids to Love—the multiple programs that they have and what they’re doing for our foster kids,” Finley said. “I’ve helped wrap gifts, I’ve helped with backpacks, watched them with their KTECH program, and in all instances, it’s making a major impact for a group of folks who strongly deserve it.”
Ashley Davis, marketing consultant for “The Madison Record” and Madison Living magazine, preceded Finley in the descent. She decided to dress as Elastigirl from Pixar’s “The Incredibles.” Shortly after Finley successfully reached the ground, Cassie Scott touched down with a smile on her face. Scott said she and her husband are interested in fostering children when their son gets older, so she thought participating in the fundraiser would be a great way to get involved.
“I used to work in nonprofits, so an organization like Kids to Love—they make sure that every dollar that’s raised goes to kids that are actually in need,” Scott said.
Though many rappellers were nervous about their descent, most showed a much different opinion after taking the plunge. Carmelita Palmer, market manager at iHeart Media and a member of Kids to Love’s board of directors, said it was “so much fun” and she would do it again “in a second.”
“The scary part … is actually going over the edge because you feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re telling me to turn my legs around and I’m going to fall and just free-fall,’” Palmer said. “But they’ve got you in a tight hold so nothing can happen, and once you get past that part of it and kind of figure out how everything works, it was so much fun. I loved it. What a great cause.”
At nearly 189 feet in total height, the Regions Center is one of the tallest buildings in Huntsville. Rappellers committed to raise at least $1,000 for Kids to Love in order to participate in the event. Companies also had to opportunity to sponsor teams of up to four people for a commitment of $5,000.
A former foster child herself, Marshall founded Kids to Love in 2004 to meet the needs of foster children in the Tennessee Valley. According to their website, Kids to Love has helped more than 200,000 foster children since the organization’s inception. The organization remains committed to helping as many foster children find “forever families” as they can. Marshall also rappelled off the Regions Center the morning of Sept. 22.
“I was adopted at a young age—born into foster care and adopted—so I could be any of the kids that we serve, but I was very lucky to be placed with a forever family early and adopted, so that’s one of the reasons why we work so hard,” Marshall said. “ … When I get to see the faces of the kids that we have a direct impact on every single day and knowing that we’re changing their lives, it’s all worth it.”
To learn more about Kids to Love and their programs, visit kidstolove.org. Their office is located at 140 Castle Drive in Madison.