When you’re staring over the side of a building from 100 feet up, you need some kind of motivation to rappel over the edge. For Jerry TeKolste, that push was beating his wife Kristi.
She was the first of the two to sign up for Saturday's event raising awareness for Christian Heritage. Participants carefully navigated eight stories on their way down the side of the Cornhusker Marriott hotel.
Jerry TeKolste had initially said no — “I was thinking, ‘I’m not gonna do that!’” — but changed his mind after Kristi went all in.
“My wife said yes, and I had to go and one-up her,” he said after they’d both reached the ground. “That’s actually the reason I did it.”
The TeKolstes were part of a group of 63 participants to boldly gear up and rappel down a building to raise money and awareness for the local faith-based nonprofit, said Christian Heritage CEO Brad Brown. Nearly 40 volunteers helped organize the event.
Each edger signed up months in advance and was encouraged to raise $1,000 for the cause. Some well-known participants included Mrs. America 2015 Erika Shelton, Congressman Don Bacon, "American Ninja Warrior" contestant Maggi Thorne and 2016 "The Voice" finalist Hannah Huston.
Christian Heritage teamed with Over The Edge, a special events company providing nonprofits with the chance to increase community exposure and raise money in a unique event.
Mother and daughter duo Brianna and Sharla Rader went down the side of the Cornhusker to promote Christian Heritage’s cause of supporting families.
“I believe in what they’re doing and have always had a heart for children in foster care,” Sharla Rader said.
Christian Heritage started in Hickman in 1980 with a group home and began offering foster care services the following year, according to its website. Today it serves about 175 children in foster care annually and has offices in Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney.
The organization also works with state correctional facilities through a program called Destination Dad, Brown said. The program provides classroom instruction and facilitates events with fathers and their children.
Another Christian Heritage program, Safe Families for Children, helps families in crisis by providing services like babysitting and transportation and donating lightly used household items with the goal of keeping families together.
This is the first year Christian Heritage has done the Over the Edge event, Brown said. In working to line up participants, he reached out to the TeKolstes, who he knew through church.
This wasn’t their first time rappelling, since they’d done it in Colorado before, but it was still a bit nerve-wracking waiting at the top, Kristi TeKolste said.
“I tried not to look down,” she said. “The hardest part is starting. It takes a lot of trust in the ropes.”
After they got the go-ahead, Jerry TeKolste accomplished what he set out to do by power-walking down the side of the building and reaching the bottom first. “I couldn’t let her win,” he said.