New heights for Nepal aid: Detroiters rappel skyscraper

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News
Sherry Wong of Grosse Pointe Woods, dressed as Cat Woman, rappels off the First National Building on Friday as part of the "Over the Edge" project to raise money for earthquake victims in Nepal.

Detroit — Thrill seekers from all over the Metro Detroit area jumped at the chance Friday to rappel the First National Building to raise money for earthquake relief in Nepal and a pre-college engineering program for city students.

For $1,000, brave souls climbed down the side of the 341-foot downtown skyscraper, hanging by a harness and rope. Participants were able to rally as a group to send someone down the building or pay individually.

The fundraising event turned into a mini-party scene as food trucks lined the street and music blasted from the speakers, while fascinated onlookers crowded around.

For Rajesh Pokharel, it was more of a personal feat than just an adrenaline rush.

"I'm from Nepal, so this really hit home for me, especially with the earthquake 12 days ago," Pokharel said. "Coming down the building was so awesome and scary, but once I started hearing the music, I knew I was close."

Samantha Lewis of Livonia said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity she couldn't pass up, so she rallied family and friends to help raise the $1,000.

"My family said, 'you want to do what?' but they helped me raise the money anyway," Lewis said. "The experience was, oh, my gosh, awesome. The staff helping made me feel so comfortable and they were very professional. I even asked to go again after coming down."

The Detroit2Nepal Foundation, in partnership with Quicken Loans and Bedrock Estate Services, put on the event to help the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program and D2N's projects in Nepal, which include rebuilding Kathmandu after last month's earthquake, construction of a new medical clinic and educational scholarships.

Donations can be made at

The April 25 quake killed more than 7,800 people, injured thousands more and caused widespread damage to homes and other buildings in the Himalayan country. "We really wanted to raise awareness about the support our program provides. A lot of the villages are in remote areas in the mountains, where it may be hard to provide relief," said Richard Keidan, founder of D2N. "What better way to bring focus to Nepal than to rappel down a building in one of the best cities."

Some donors decided not to rappel themselves.

Nyasha Answorth of Detroit, who works in the First National Building, decided quickly she didn't want to climb down the structure.

"I don't trust the ropes. I have always had a fear of falling to my death," Answorth said as she stood outside the building. "I donated money to the team to help them reach their goal, but I will just root from down here."

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