131st Bomb Wing Missouri Air Guardsmen go ‘Over the Edge’ in support of Special Olympics
By Bill Phelan, Special to the 131st Bomb Wing
/ Published October 12, 2011
ST.LOUIS, Mo -- Despite his fear of heights, Staff Sgt. Tim Reynolds, of the 131st Bomb Wing Missouri Air National Guard, stepped off the roof of the 19-story Four Season Hotel in downtown St. Louis as part of an effort to raise money for Special Olympics.
Reynolds, of Florissant, was among more than 100 participants in the Special Olympics' annual Over the Edge fund-raising event Friday. Each participant was required to raise $1,000 in donations for the opportunity to rappel down the side of the 190-foot hotel at Laclede's Landing-Saint Louis. Similar events are being held in Jefferson City and Kansas City. Missouri National Guard Chief of Staff, Col. Wendul G. Hagler, is expected to participate in the Jefferson City event Oct. 29.
As the Missouri National Guard is a major sponsor of Special Olympics, Reynolds was joined by fellow Airman Staff Sgt. Mike Lay, of Maryland Heights. Both serve with the 131st Security Forces Squadron, which is part of the 131st Bomb Wing at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Watching from the ground and providing "moral support" was 1st Sgt. Jim Craig, Staff Sgt. Sarah Mantia of the 131st Logistics Readiness Squadron, and 131st Security Forces commander, 1st Lt. William Sarti.
"I'm very proud of both of these sergeants and I think they're both crazy," said Sarti, of south St. Louis, as he watched Reynolds and Lay dangle above North 2nd Street. "It's very impressive, especially because I could never do that."
Started just three years ago, Over the Edge has become one of Special Olympics most successful fund-raising events.
"Our goal in St. Louis this year was $120,000 and we will definitely surpass that," said Jennifer Brown, development director for Special Olympics Missouri. "The money we raise supports the nearly 7,000 Special Olympic athletes in the St. Louis metro area and we have nearly 15,000 athletes statewide."
Brown praised the partnership between Special Olympics and the Missouri National Guard.
"We definitely value that relationship," she said. "The Guard does a lot for Special Olympics and because we value our volunteers we truly appreciate their support."
Perhaps surprisingly, Brown said no one has ever backed out of rappelling once reaching the top of the building, although Reynolds needed a bit of encouragement.
"I had to twist Tim's arm once we got to the top," joked Lay, who said it was Reynolds who asked him to participate in the event.
"It was very interesting," said Reynolds of his first, and probably last rappelling experience.
"It was more fun than I expected," said Lay of his rappel. "I'm used to jumping out of airplanes so although this is more low key, I had a great time. It couldn't have been more fun."
"I don't know about fun," said Reynolds flatly.
Besides the $2,000 raised by Reynolds and Lay, other Airmen of the 131st raised an additional $2,000 for Special Olympics.
Asked if they would go "over the edge" again, Lay and Reynolds had slightly differing views.
"I'd do it again right now," said Lay enthusiastically.
"Next year I think I'll just help other people do it," said Reynolds with a smile.