Rappel Down a Skyscraper, Fight Addiction
Need help? Call our 24/7 helpline. 855-933-3480

Rappel Down a Skyscraper, Fight Addiction


Have you ever seen an 86-year-old man rappel 17 stories down the side of building? You would have if you’d been walking the streets of downtown Cincinnati last Saturday. The man in question, Bill Magnus, was one of many who rappelled down the side of the Westin Hotel to raise awareness and funds to combat addiction.

Extreme Sports Generates Extreme Awareness

Magnus’s daughter Edie, who covered health, medicine and wellness on TV news for years, serves on the advisory board of Shatterproof, a relatively new nonprofit dedicated to fighting addiction. In 2006, Edie’s brother Billy overdosed on cocaine. Then just last year her sister Eleanor overdosed as well. Edie teamed up with her 86-year-old father for the rappel—a feat known as the Shatterproof Challenge.

“The insane loss of our loved ones to addiction has to be stopped,” Edie wrote on her fundraising page. “I am committed to raise money and awareness so that millions of families can be spared the devastation my family has suffered, and our world can be made as shatterproof as possible.”

Like the Magnuses, Shatterproof’s founder Gary Mendell has lost family to the disease of addiction. For years Mendell struggled with the lack of resources and research available to parents as his son Brian struggled with addiction. At 25 years old and with 13 months clean, Brian took his life. Originally called Brian’s Wish, the year-old Shatterproof charity is Mendell’s new mission.

Shattering the Stigma

The organization has set lofty but measurable goals: to cut the number of addicts, the number of addiction deaths and the societal costs of addiction in half over the next 20 years. To do this, Shatterproof aims to unite and empower addicts and their families, work to end the stigma against addiction, fund new treatment research, and advocate for change. Mendell has assembled an all-star team of advisors from the worlds of business, health science and public policy, and events like the rappelling challenge are putting the group’s name on the map.

The United States of Rappelling

Cincinnati is just one of many cities to host the Shatterproof Challenge since March, when the first rappelling event was held in Pasadena. The rest of 2014’s destinations include Bergen County, New Jersey (which recently hosted a movement of its own), Atlanta, Nashville, Fort Worth, San Jose and Irvine, with a new crop of locations in 2015. Anyone weighing between 110-300 pounds can participate, including minors with signed waivers from their parents, so long as they raise $1,000 for the charity. Most participants have family members suffering from or lost to addiction, while others are in recovery themselves.

The rappels are supervised by pro climbing company Over the Edge, so no climbing experience is necessary. Last October, Over The Edge put on a similar rappelling fundraiser with the National Youth Recovery Foundation—which clearly provided the inspiration for Shatterproof. In that star-studded event which raised over $60,000, our own Anna David took to the ropes to descend Hollywood’s famed W Hotel.

The Steeper Meaning

Why rappelling? It certainly draws attention, and for many it’s a novel experience unlike a march or even a bike ride. But maybe there’s some symbolism to the event as well: when you’re rappelling, you’re hooked into a strong support system. It’s the opposite of free fall. You won’t shatter.

For those in the recovery community, it’s heartening to watch movements like Shatterproof gather momentum through high-profile events and social media expansion. Thanks to these and all our other After Party Heroes, it’s starting to feel like the demand for this issue to come into the light has reached critical mass.

Any Questions? Call Now To Speak to a Rehab Specialist
(855) 933-3480

About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.