WATERTOWN — From the top of Midtown Towers, the whole city stretches out — the Black River, the town hall, the edges, where it blends into the rest of Jefferson County. Perhaps the best representation of the county, though, were the 88 people who lowered themselves slowly over the edge of the roof on Friday and Saturday as part of the fourth annual “Over the Edge” fundraiser for the United Way. High school freshmen, state troopers, retirees, Fort Drum soldiers and others rappelled the 155 feet to the ground.
On Friday, nine members of the Indian River wrestling team went over. They raised $3,788 in honor of state trooper Joel Davis, murdered in Theresa in 2017, matching and then exceeding a $2,500 donation from the Theresa Rotary Club.
“I told everybody I’d love to,” said Jake Whitmore, a freshman wrestler from Indian River. “A lot of guys from the wrestling team wanted to do it.”
Mr. Whitmore has been wrestling for 10 years, his team mate, junior Lucas VanTassel, for 11 years, but this was a new kind of challenge for both of them.
“I’ve never done it before,” Mr. VanTassel said.
“Never. Never ever,” agreed Mr. Whitmore, adding “I’m ready for it.”
Mr. Whitmore was accompanied on his descent by Jillian Beattie, a state trooper from the Watertown barracks who agreed to join the teens.
“I was actually contacted by one of the parents of the wrestlers,” she said. “Seeing as how they’ve been raising money in honor of Joel.”
Although she had never done anything quite like it before, Trooper Beattie said she was “excited.”
Also on Friday, brother and sister Katy E. Nortz and Nicholas Nortz rapelled down to support Children’s Miracle Network, which helped both siblings through life threatening illnesses.
As in years past, members of the Fort Drum Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, an Army service organization, assisted those climbing down the wall. After an elevator broke on Saturday, some soldiers were apparently carrying crates of harnesses up 15 flights of stairs to return the gear for the next rapellers.
“It’s a chance for the Audie Murphy Club, Fort Drum, to give back to the community for all the support they give us,” said First Sgt. Tambouzi Green, president of the Fort Drum Audie Murphy Club.
Sgt. Green has been involved in the club for 10 years at a number of different posts; this is his first year doing “Over the Edge” in Watertown. The club tries to be involved in activities in the local community, from the Special Olympics to Junior ROTC programs.
“So many times people want to thank us, say, ‘thank you for your service,’” Sgt. Green said. “But our job wouldn’t be as easy as it is without the community supporting us, backing us, making sure that things back here are” taken care of.
Some of the participants came from outside of Jefferson County, too. Brandy McIntyre of SLC Community Development Program works at Gouvernour Head Start, and was the only member of her organization rappelling down.
“I do have a lot of support, my coworkers will be here to support me,” she said.
This will be the last “Over the Edge” for United Way CEO Robert D. Gorman, who is retiring this year. He said the event has continued to grow every year.
“We have generated over $55,000,” he said on Saturday. “We’ll have more money coming in over the next week.”
That is already more than the $48,000 raised last year. Though Mr. Gorman will not be organizing the event next year, he said it is unlikely the organization will discontinue it.
“Look at this, look at how much happiness it has brought to people,” he said.