Michelle Dunnette, a breast cancer survivor, stood at the edge of a 13-story building, nervous but determined, as she looked over her shoulder at the drop below.
Dunnette was in a Super Woman costume, red cape and all — the same outfit she wore to chemotherapy.
A beautiful view surrounded her, with Fort Lauderdale beach glistening to her left, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park behind her and the marina to her right.
Now all she had to do was lean back and rappel down the building, sending her body, strapped to a harness, down the rope leading her into a cheering crowd.
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“This is not just me being Super Girl. This is for everybody with cancer,” said Dunnette, referring to the message she was promoting: “Be strong, and there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Dunnette was one of about 60 people who each raised at least $1,000 in order to participate in the Over the Edge for Gilda rappelling event off the B Ocean Fort Lauderdale hotel Saturday.
The rappelling event was hosted by Gilda’s Club South Florida, a nonprofit organization devoted to cancer patients, in partnership with Over the Edge USA and the B Ocean Fort Lauderdale.
After signing a waiver, participants were led in groups by a volunteer up to the second floor of B Ocean Fort Lauderdale to undergo training.
“They get fitted for a helmet, get their harness and gloves. Then they sit in an apparatus so that they can get the sensation of what it’ll feel like to dangle. You can be in training as long as you need to be until you’re feeling comfortable,” said Elisabeth Glynn, development coordinator.
After training, participants are escorted up to the roof for the ultimate goal of descending down the building, hanging from a rope to which their harnesses are safely attached.
Dunnette wasn’t the only one to come out in costume: David Halpern arrived ready to rappel in a Spider-Man outfit.
“It’s always a rush when you first lean back into nothingness, but other than that, it is a lot of fun. It’s exhilarating, although you don’t get to enjoy the view as much as you’d like on the way down.”
Halpern had rappelled in the past.
“We did it off 19 stories before for the last Over the Edge,” said David Camargo, Halpern’s grandson.
Camargo showed his grandfather support from the bottom of the building.
“It’s a spectacular view. Being able to see somebody, especially my grandpa dressed up like Spider-Man and being able to [rappel] in front of a whole bunch of people in the crowd, it’s amazing. It’s just truly a great experience.”
There were also first-timers in the group.
“I’m a little nervous, but it’s for a good cause, so I am super excited. This is my first time,” said Jessie Gordon, who rappelled down the building alongside her mother, Shelley Goren, chief executive officer of Gilda’s Club South Florida.
“We’ve raised over 90,000 dollars,” said Kim Kohl, event coordinator. “All the money raised is going back to Gilda’s Club South Florida for cancer support.”
Shelley Goren, who raised about $6,000, defied her fear of heights when she rappelled.
“I think the turnout was fabulous, and everybody’s family and friends are here to support them and to support Gilda’s Club. It couldn’t be any better.”