Funds for troops raised as rappelers descend in Naperville
Raising money for the support of U.S. troops while sampling the step outside one's comfort zone which military jobs require daily were the twin missions of an event at Naperville's Hotel Arista Saturday.
More than 100 people paid at least $1,000 each to rappel down the side of the 13 stories from the hotel's roof during Operation Support Our Troops America's daylong Over the Edge fundraiser.
Through both additional donations and corporate sponsorships, approximately $200,000 was raised through this opportunity for personal bravery, Operation Support Our Troops America co-founder Bill Rickert said.
"It's a great event!" he said. "A lot of fun!"
"It was very scary, but very great!" said Mary Clare Noteman of Glenview. "I was a little more afraid than I expected to be."
Like one of her sisters whom she watched follow her down, Noteman said it took her about half the building's length to get used to the unfamiliar exercise but she immediately felt capable of doing it again if she'd had the chance.
It was yet another sister, Mary Frances Trucco of Chicago, who got the whole family involved. Trucco is the director of public affairs and government relations for Jewel-Osco, one of the sponsors of the event.
Trucco's husband, Tom, said he'd first done a similar event for a different cause in May in St. Charles, but paid just as much attention to the experts' briefing Saturday.
"Never go into it thinking you know it!" he advised with a smile.
Lisa Weier of West Chicago was looking forward to her own first rappel, accompanying her friend Jeff Nemetz of Aurora who already had experience of doing so in the military.
"I think it's just going to be a really good rush," Weier said before her pre-descent training. "I'm not afraid of heights, but I've never jumped off anything before."
The money raised Saturday will be used for, among other things, care packages for overseas troops, the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veteran's Assistance Program, and the Leap of Faith Program aimed at helping families of fallen soldiers cope with their loss.
Rickert said he and his wife Deb co-founded Operation Support Our Troops America out of their Naperville home in response to having two sons join the military in the aftermath of 9/11.
"We feel very blessed our sons came home," Rickert said.
Nevertheless, he believes the focus and attention his nonprofit puts on U.S. troops stationed overseas -- including 14,000 in Afghanistan -- is of increased importance today as they're no longer in the news as much as they were 16 years ago.
"They really need us now more than ever," Rickert said.