Photos by Hillary Ehlen and courtesy of CHARISM
While the Black Building’s Art Moderne style usually catches eyes in downtown Fargo, on August 10, pedestrians were looking up at it for a different reason. The block of Broadway hosted necks craned backwards, cautiously watching as person after person rappelled 110 feet down the historic building. But these daredevils weren’t rappelling down just for the thrill of it. In a fundraising effort for CHARISM, 80 volunteers, or “Edgers,” rappelled eight stories down from the top of the building.
CHARISM, in partnership with Over the Edge USA, brought back this unique fundraising event to Fargo for the second year in a row. It only made sense that such an unique organization would hold an equally unique fundraising event. In a sea of galas and golf tournaments, Over The Edge provides a fun way to raise money for a cause. They work with non-profits and charities across the United States and Canada by providing them a fresh and heart-racing opportunity to bring in people of the community for good causes. With them, volunteers have the opportunity to pledge an amount of money to a charity in exchange for the experience of getting to rappel great heights down iconic buildings.
When approached with the idea of this type of fundraiser, CHARISM’s executive director John Fisher said, “We were nimble and crazy enough to try something like this.” And sure enough, from their past experiences hosting the eye-catching event, CHARISM has seen a rise in familiarity of their organization. Fisher stated, “I have a hard time coming across people who don’t know about CHARISM now. A few years ago, that was not the case.”
Founded in 1994, CHARISM was created to fill a need in the community by helping at-risk kids as well as aiding in development of job skills to those who need them. Fisher noted that “at-risk” can fall under a wide variety of categories, from financial to behavioral to housing to transportation. The organization is not strict on who they help and they are open and ready to give aid by eliminating barriers to anyone who needs it.
All the funds raised from this event go towards providing opportunities for at-risk children in the community through CHARISM Cares Scholarship. This fund keeps the programs they run at no cost or a low cost to those utilizing them. CHARISM currently runs three elementary school after-school STEM programs, one middle school after-school STEM program and four in-school “Check and Connect” programs, as well as a food pantry in the Jefferson neighborhood that services anyone with food insecurity. Through fundraising events such as this one as well as grants, they are able to keep these programs running and helping as many people as they can. With a full plate, Fisher said, “At the end of the day, am I stressed? Yes. But I can look back and know I have helped make a formidable change.”
Spotlight Media’s very own Editorial Director Andrew Jason and Sales Executive Scott Rorvig were among the brave masses to descend down the Black Building for this fundraising fete. Clad in a full-body industrial harness, helmet, gloves and a radio, these men were safely secured and ready to rock. Of the experience, Rorvig expressed, “It was really cool to overlook Downtown Fargo and be able to see all different parts at the same time. I felt that I was pretty brave the whole time until they told me to put my heels over the edge, then I felt a little less Indiana Jones. But once you got going, it was a great experience.”
All fears aside, by the end of the day, thousands of dollars were raised for CHARISM, proving that the adrenaline and heart racing of the edgers were all worth it.