Sporting her lucky Wonder Woman sneakers, a relieved Sen. Katrina Shealy peeled off her rappeling harness on Friday and proclaimed, “It’s off my bucket list. I’m not doing that again!”
She had just scaled 326 feet from the top of Columbia’s second-tallest building to the pavement below to help raise money for Harvest Hope Food Bank’s first rappel-for-food event. Shealy had faced her fear of heights.
“Everybody wants to donate at Thanksgiving and Christmastime,” the Lexington County Republican said as she sipped water on a hot afternoon. “Nobody wants to give during the summer.”
So far into the two-day fund-raiser that ends Saturday, pledges have amounted to about $20,000, said Harvest Hope’s Ash Little.
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Shealy was among several local celebrities who volunteered to kick off the fund-raiser by getting a five-minute lesson and then suiting up in helmets and harnesses and holding tight to polyester ropes designed to hold at least 6,000 pounds.
Step by uneasy step they made their way down the 20-story Hub student housing building on Main Street. Below, supporters applauded and hecklers heckled.
As local law enforcement supporter Bruce Brutchy and Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews rappeled the building, someone shouted, “Quit looking in the windows.” Another taunter yelled, “The Firefly was quicker,” a reference to the costumed mascot for the minor league baseball team, Mason, who was first down the concrete and glass wall.
When Columbia deputy police chief Melron Kelly gingerly made his first-ever rappel, a fellow officer said, “Come on! We’ve got stuff to do. You’ll be all right – from the third floor down.”
Shealy wore a gold bracelet like the one Wonder Woman uses to deflect attacks. A red shawl doubled as a cape in case, Shealy said, the rope broke and she needed to glide to safety. Shealy was the only elected officials of about a half dozen asked who accepted the challenge, Debbie Summers, a Lexington County councilwoman, told the crowd through a bullhorn.
But the sneakers emblazoned with the words “Wonder Woman” were most special. They are the newest version of the ones she wore in her 2012 door-to-door campaign that unseated longtime senator Jake Knotts.
Matthews said he accepted the challenge when he misunderstood his wife’s description as the distance being 22 feet – not 20 stories. Friday was the first time in 30 years that the 65-year-old former federal drug agent had dangled from a safety rope. Matthews once was an instructor at the FBI’s Quantico, Va., training facility.
But when it comes to the cause of helping to feed the hungry and support an organization that does so much, especially during the October flood, “I’d do it again in a minute,” Matthews said.
Back safely on the ground, Kelly said he heard the heckling and his mother’s words of concern. “She said, ‘Don’t do that anymore,” said the deputy chief.
Kelly was participating on behalf of Heroes in Blue, the organization founded by Kassy Alia, widow of slain Forest Acres officer Greg Alia.
Harvest Hope provides food to needy people in 20 South Carolina counties. It has a distribution center on Shop Road in south Columbia.
If you go
The public portion of the two-day fund-raiser is on Saturday. Anyone who wants to rappel from the roof top of The Hub must raise at least $1,000 for Harvest Hope Food Bank. The non-profit group is expecting 70 people to climb down the 20-story, student housing building on Columbia’s Main Street. Any other participants will depend on the number of rappeling slots available.
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
WHERE: The Hub, 1426 Main St.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit harvesthopeovertheedge.com or call Debbie Summers (803) 518-6858.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH: Pedestrians on the 1400 block of Main Street will have shade trees under which to see each participant rappel.