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Habitat Challenge FAQs

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Go over the edge for Habitat.

Few events present the kind of thrilling, bucket-list experience like the Habitat Challenge. It’s a 245′ urban rappel down Tacoma’s second-tallest building, Hotel Murano, all to benefit affordable housing in our community. Some take the Habitat Challenge to conquer fears; others to mark a milestone; some do it just for the bragging rights. But in order to rappel, all Edgers must weigh between 100-300 lbs, have the ability to climb two flights of stairs and a short ladder unassisted, and possess the leg strength to step up to the roof’s parapet. But there’s no age limit and, in fact, we’ve had multiple Edgers in their 80s!

Below are the answers to all your burning questions about the Habitat Challenge, including some more technical information about how it all works. If there’s a question we haven’t answered, please contact us so we can chat.

Some might call participation in this daring event “crazy,” but here at Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, we know our Edgers are not only brave, but compassionate and committed to housing justice.

When you’re ready to register, click here!

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Overall Experience

What is the Habitat Challenge?

The Habitat Challenge is a thrilling fundraiser for Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity in which individuals rappel 245′ down the face of the second tallest building in Tacoma to raise money for affordable housing.

Habitat Challenge has two ropes, allowing for 8-12 Edgers to descend each hour.

This is not your typical rock climbing rappel! You will be wearing a full-body industrial harness and using an industrial descender to go down. You can control your speed to a certain extent. Should you go too fast, the back-up device will engage.

Who can rappel?

Anyone age 13+ and weighing between 100-300 lbs can safely rappel. No rappelling experience is needed to do the Challenge.

While our partners at Over the Edge have vast experience coordinating successful rappels for individuals with special needs, roof egress by wheelchair is not possible at Hotel Murano. Participants must be able to climb two flights of stairs and a short ladder to get to the rappel site. Edgers also need the leg strength to step up to the roof’s parapet.

If you wish to rappel but will need special accommodation, please reach out so we can coordinate with the technicians and see what’s possible.

Is it safe?

Completely!

Our event partners, Over the Edge (OTE), supply the equipment and expertise for the Habitat Challenge. Their technical staff are highly trained, certified industrial ropes specialists.

Each event site has a comprehensive Site Inspection & Safety Plan prepared by one of OTE’s senior technical staff. This is Habitat’s fifth event rappelling off the Hotel Murano and the OTE technical staff is very familiar (and comfortable) with the building. Our lead tech, Aaron, has been with the Habitat Challenge since the beginning (2016) and knows the Hotel Murano’s structure well. He’s also a Washington native and understands our weather.

Globally, OTE has a history of over 75,000 descents at 372 buildings with no safety incidents.

How does it work?

Over the Edge (OTE) uses a unique two-rope system of rigging and harnesses, very similar to that of professional window washers. As an Edger, you will wear a full-body harness and use an industrial descender.

Getting your weight off the roof and into the harness is the hardest part for most people. Once you’re over the edge of the roof, you can breathe easy, knowing that the technicians above and below are there to help and can give you directions over the walkie-talkie attached to your harness.

Pulling a handle makes you go down; letting go makes you stop. To a certain extent, you can control your speed. Should you go too fast, or should the equipment fail, the back-up device will engage. You can stop to rest, or switch hands, if you need a break. If you find yourself unable to finish your rappel on your own, a technician can lower you to the ground.

Once you’re within 20 feet of the ground, an OTE team member will assist your landing.

How long does it take?

The rappel itself will take about 8-12 minutes, but we ask that Edgers allot 2 hours for the entire experience.

Check-in times for rappelling are scheduled every half hour from 10:00 AM to 5:30pm, with 4-6 Edgers in each block. From check-in, your block of Edgers will go to the 26th floor, where you will put on your safety gear and head to the roof for training.

The average time between check-in and rappel ranges between 30 to 90 minutes. (Example: if your check-in time is 10:30am, you may rappel anytime between 11am and noon.) A few people take to rappelling like a fish to water and complete their rappel in much less time than
the estimate, but a rappel may take much longer as some people need coaxing and support all the way to the bottom.

Rappel spots are assigned in the order fundraising is achieved. Once you raise $750, you will have your pick of available rappel spots.

Can I rappel with my friend?

While it is possible that you and a friend will be scheduled to rappel at the same time, we cannot guarantee that you will start (or finish) your rappel together. The time it takes for someone to rappel varies widely by person. It all depends on the flow of the day and how actual descent times align with the schedule. While we will do our best to accommodate your request, we can not hold up a rope’s schedule to accommodate side-by-side rappels.

What can I do to practice?

The most common complaint from Edgers is that their forearm became sore during the descent. Proper techniques like switching arms make a lot of difference.

While you don’t need any experience or practice, you can go rock climbing at a local climbing gym. Not only does rock climbing strengthen your forearms, but also it allows you to hang in a harness. Although the harnesses used by Over the Edge are different, you will still get the idea of what muscles it takes to stay up-right.

What about COVID? Does that change things?

Our production partners at Over the Edge (OTE) have a host of COVID guidelines in place to adhere to state guidelines and keep everyone safe. There are provisions for sanitation, masks, gloves and social distancing throughout the event.

While OTE staff and Rope Volunteers will maintain distance when possible, staying 6’ apart from participants is not possible. Edgers should expect close proximity to OTE staff and Ropes Volunteers throughout the experience, as well as some physical contact in order to maintain participant safety.

However all OTE staff and Rope Volunteers will always wear facial coverings, gloves and/or shields no matter what the local guidelines are.

As we get closer to the event, we will share our specific safety plan.

Fundraising

What's the deal with fundraising?

Like many charity rides or runs, Habitat Challenge carries a fundraising minimum that participants must meet in order to rappel on Friday, August 27.

A non-refundable $50 registration fee reserves one of the 75 Edger spots for the Habitat Challenge. Your registration fee counts toward your $1,000 fundraising goal.

We make fundraising easy with an online platform that tracks your progress and donors. With your registration, you get a fundraising page with a unique URL that you can customize with your own photos (both a profile picture and a cover photo), a statement about yourself and why you’re going over the edge for Habitat.

It’s important to note that when you reach $750, you will be invited to schedule your rappel.

All funds received by Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity are non-refundable regardless of participation on event day.

How do I raise $1,000?

We understand that asking for money can be a scary thing. But we know it’s not as hard or as terrifying as it may seem. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • The most effective way to secure donations is to ask people personally. If you can, tell people about your commitment to the Habitat Challenge in person or by phone.
  • Ask for a bite-size gift that holds meaning for you or the event.
    • Ask 26 people for a gift of $38.47 each. The Hotel Murano has 26 floors, and $38.47 x 26 will get you to your $1,000 minimum.
    • Ask your network to pledge based on the height of the building. The distance between the rooftop and the ground is 245 feet; that’s $4.08 per foot.
    • If you’re celebrating a milestone birthday this year, ask your friends to each pledge a dollar per year of your age.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Keep in mind that visuals (photos and videos) will more easily catch the eye of your followers. You can make a meme of yourself with a “rappel face” and tag your friends to get them to donate. Be sure to tag friends and followers again in a separate “thank you” post once they’ve donated.
  • Always follow up! People will appreciate the reminder. (We promise.) Include fun facts and updates on how close you are to reaching your goal.
  • If your company has a newsletter, blog, or other publication, ask if they will feature you and your Habitat Challenge journey. Don’t forget to include the link to your fundraising page.
  • Many companies match their employees’ charitable donations. Be sure to let your donors know that they can double their donation by asking their boss or HR department if their company has a matching gift program.
  • Send a thank you letter, note, or message to every single one of your donors. Every. Single. One.
  • Know your facts. Familiarize yourself with Habitat for Humanity so you can talk about the cause and answer questions from your donors. If you’re feeling unsure, let us know and we’d be happy to help give you some more info so you can be a confident ambassador.

Whatever you do, please do not use a Facebook fundraiser for the Habitat Challenge. Facebook will ask you about it, but just say no. Here’s why: It takes between 60-90 days for the funds to arrive at Habitat and when the money arrives, it’s just money. There isn’t any donor information (so we can’t thank your supporters) and there is no way to know which Edger gets credit for the money. The bottom line is: if you use Facebook to collect donations for the Habitat Challenge, those funds will not be added to your fundraising total and that money will not help you get to the roof.

How do I update my fundraising page?

When you registered, you set up login information for your personal page.

From the event homepage, you can click on the login button on the top right of the screen. From there, you can enter your credentials to login, or request to reset your password.

If you get stuck or need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Where does the money go?

Thanks to our generous sponsors, all funds raised by Edgers through the Habitat Challenge benefit Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity.

Using affordable homeownership as an anchor for hope, change, and stability, Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity has been building in the community since 1985. We are a local, independent affiliate of the global non-profit housing organization, Habitat for Humanity International.

Tacoma Habitat is committed to advocating for fair housing policies while increasing access to affordable homeownership for hard working families and individuals.

Funds from the Habitat Challenge will not only help build homes, but support our programs, including:

  • Homeownership: With a hand-up from our donors and volunteers, Habitat homeowners are able to purchase homes with an affordable mortgage. Through the opportunity of homeownership, partner families escape rent-burdened, over-crowded living situations. With stable, affordable housing, Habitat homeowners no longer have to make difficult choices between paying rent or providing for daily life and emergent needs of their families.
  • Foreclosure Prevention: Now more than ever, homeowners are at risk of losing the dream they’ve worked so hard to achieve, reporting reduced incomes and requesting mortgage forbearance. Our new foreclosure prevention program helps to keep default and foreclosure at bay.
  • Aging in Place: Senior citizens needing home repair in order to maintain a healthy living environment often call on us, with nowhere else to turn. We are currently piloting a developing home repair program to serve vulnerable, low-income seniors.

For Event Day

What should I bring?

Think minimalist. Nothing, and we mean nothing, goes to the roof besides your body, the clothes you’re wearing and a helmet-mounted camera, if you’re bringing one.

At check-in you will have an opportunity to check any belongings before being escorted to the 26th floor to gear up. Please note if you wear glasses or wish to wear sunglasses while rappelling, you will be required to use Over the Edge’s straps, commonly known as croakies.

What should I wear?

Be comfortable and, most importantly, wear good shoes (e.g. sneakers, hiking boots). No sandals, slip-on shoes, slippers, flip flops, high heels, or steel toed boots will be permitted.

While costumes are encouraged – and we’ve seen some great ones! – please note that the harness goes around your legs, waist, and shoulders. It’s best to avoid anything too bulky. For safety’s sake, don’t wear anything with draw strings.

Please note that long hair should be tied back.

You will be required to leave droppable items like keys and cell phones or jewelry at check-in, either with a friend/family member or with the volunteers at check-in.

Can I wear a costume?

We LOVE costumes! However, costumes are subject to safety guidelines limitations. Every attempt will be made to safely fit costumes around harnesses and helmets, but it is ultimately the decision of the Site Safety Supervisor. Stringy, loose, or excessive costumes must be avoided.

All capes will have to be approved by the Site Safety Supervisor. Head pieces that will not accommodate a helmet, obscure your vision, or are notably large or heavy may not be allowed.

If you have a fabulous costume planned, let us know in advance so we can help troubleshoot before the big event and/or run your idea by the Over the Edge crew.

Is there any training before I rappel?

At your check-in time, you will be escorted to the 26th floor of Hotel Murano to the staging area. There, you will be outfitted with all the gear by our partners with Over the Edge (OTE).

When you’re suited up, you’ll have a chance to test the equipment and practice leaning into the harness before you climb the final stairs to access the rooftop. Training takes approximately 20-30 minutes. Use this time to to get a feel for hanging in the harness, find a comfortable position, and practice using the descender.

During training, OTE staff will discuss and practice good rappelling position, where to keep your feet and where to keep your hands. This is sometimes referred to as the “L” position, feet against the building and level with your hips. We also discuss the use of the radios that participants wear. You can maintain the correct position by sitting up in your harness as if you were sitting in a swing.

Can I bring my cell phone to the roof for photos?

No. All pockets are emptied at check-in and no phones or cameras are allowed on the roof with the exception of a helmet-mounted GoPro. (You must supply the mounting system.)

However, there will be one professional photographer on the roof to capture your big moment, and a second photographer in the Landing Zone to snap your descent. Following the event (within 5 days), Edgers will have access to the online photo gallery of professional images and will be allowed free downloads for a two week period.

We also usually staff someone on the roof to snap your “over the edge” moment on a cell phone and immediately text it to you, but this position in 2021 will be determined by the summer’s social distancing protocols.

For safety reasons, the Habitat Challenge is a NO DRONE ZONE.

What about GoPros?

You are  welcome to bring a GoPro (or other like model camera) to wear during your descent. Your camera must have a sliding clip so it can be mounted to the Over the Edge (OTE) helmets. (Some helmets will already have the adhesive receiver mounted; see photo, left.)

If you bring and use an adhesive mount of your own, please be aware that the mount will not go home with you; it will remain on the helmet, considered a donation to OTE.

Please note that all helmet-mounted cameras will have a secondary attachment connected to them as a precaution (typically a short lanyard).

Just be sure that your camera is fully charged with plenty of available memory; the rappel schedule will not be delayed to accommodate camera trouble-shooting.

Can my friends and family come watch?

Under normal circumstances, the Landing Zone is a happening place with a beer garden and plenty of activity. In 2021, we’re taking a more cautious approach with community safety in mind.

As the event gets closer, we’ll be better able to define the spectator experience and limits. For now, we are comfortable saying you may have 2 people accompany you to the courtyard of Hotel Murano to observe your rappel. Once the COVID vaccine is widely available, we hope to offer more of a party atmosphere, though at this point, we cannot make guarantees.

Regardless of what the ground party looks like, it is important to note that only Edgers go to the 26th floor (Staging) and to the roof. Beyond check-in, the experience is shared only with the other Edgers in your schedule block.

What if it rains?

Calling an event for weather is very rare.

Should it rain on event day, the Site Safety Supervisor from Over the Edge may call a rain delay, but only in the case that showers impact vision of those on the ropes or on the safety crew. But generally, Over the Edge does not call events for rain.

The best advice we can give is to dress for the weather and do your best to remain positive.

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Posted in: Fundraiser