Hartwick’s Shaw Goes “Over the Edge” for Special Olympics

September 7, 2010

In late August, Hartwick College Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Marc E. Shaw arrived to volunteer Marc Shawfor a Special Olympics fundraiser held at the Albany Crowne Plaza Hotel. What he didn't realize is that a few hours later he would be suspended by a rope, 18 stories above downtown Albany.

From 2000-2003, Shaw worked for Special Olympics in California, so he wanted to return to the Special Olympics organization by helping out for a day. Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs.

The fundraiser, called "Over The Edge," allows individuals who raise $1,000 or more for Special Olympics to rappel down the Crowne Plaza Hotel's outside wall - 18 stories from the roof to the State Street sidewalk. In New York state, more than 48,000 athletes participate free-of-charge in Special Olympics' year-round programs, so fundraising is an integral aspect of the non-profit's mission.

"As I was volunteering, I had been watching individuals - including Albany Fire Chief Robert Forezzi - go over the edge of the roof for a few hours," Shaw said. "It really was an exciting event because people who had raised money had their own cheering sections as they came down the building. Several newspaper reporters were interviewing people, and all of the Albany television channels were filming there-some of the TV anchors even rappelled down. The Mayor of Albany showed up at one point to get his picture taken with the fire chief.

"But then, all of a sudden, the event coordinator told me there was an open slot in the schedule, and asked if I would like to go over the edge, too," he continued. "Because this opportunity doesn't come by that often, I said 'yes.' I knew I would regret it if I turned down the chance-I just knew I wouldn't be able to look down at the ground as I went down."

A professional climbing organization staffed the rappelling part of the event. Each participant went through a short training, rappelling off a three-story parking garage before going for the much higher "Over The Edge" drop.

"I felt completely safe during the whole rappel," Shaw said, "but my body still couldn't believe I was making it drop off a building. That first moment when you lean back on your harness and let gravity take over is scary. It was exhilarating. As I was coming down the building, the PA announcer told the crowd that I was a professor at Hartwick College - so I tried not to embarrass our school by descending too slowly or by sobbing like a small child."

Shaw wants to rappel in Albany again next year, but by raising money and earning his slot in the event.

"I want to get the word out to the campus about this event," he said. "Maybe next year we can have a whole Hartwick College crew that goes 'Over the Edge' for Special Olympics. It's going to be around September 15 or 16, 2011, so classes will be in session, and people can take advantage of this worthwhile, crazy event."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,500 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive curriculum emphasizes a uniquely experiential approach to the liberal arts. Through personalized teaching, collaborative research, a unique January Term, a wide range of internships, and vast study-abroad opportunities, Hartwick ensures that students are prepared for the world ahead. A Three-Year Bachelor's Degree Program and strong financial aid and scholarship offerings keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
Phone: 607-431-4030