Being edgy takes on a whole new meaning when you are dangling some 200 feet above the earth.
Jill Bloomfield, an officer with the O’Fallon Police Department, took part in Over the Edge on Oct. 29, a fundraiser in which participants rappel down the side of a tall building, in this case, 25 stories of the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch Hotel.
O’Fallon, like many municipalities, raises funds for Special Olympics of Missouri [SOMO] with events like Tip a Cop, Torch Run, Polar Plunge, etc. Bloomfield participated in all of those events over the last several years.
“So at some point, Over the Edge was presented to me as another way to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics. Anything I can do to help out this awesome program, I will do,” Bloomfield said. “So when it came to my attention, I couldn’t help but to answer the call and sign up.”
She admits that she is not fond of high places, but she did not let her apprehension deter her.
“I’m not sure that my fear of heights is quite ‘phobia’ worthy, but no, I am not a fan. I don’t really even like standing on a ladder to hang Christmas lights,” Bloomfield said. She credits her faith with perseverance. “Just like any challenge, I look to Jesus for strength and courage and have confidence that I am capable of overcoming my fears. Greater obstacles have been overcome than a fear of heights.”
Before the big moment, Bloomfield had to practice.
“It’s not really a practice so much as a gear demo,” she said. “They hook your harness up to this tripod-looking contraption, kind of like a giant baby swing, away from the edge of the roof just so you can get familiar with the harness and the devices that keep you from falling. During that part though, you’re only about two feet off the ground.”
She described what it was like to rappel down the side of a building hundreds of feet tall.
“Once my harness was hooked up to the rope and my gear had been double- and triple-checked, the woman at the top told me to go ahead and walk backward until I could feel my heels on the ledge. I laughed for just a second, until I realized she was serious,” she said. “I took some baby steps backward and my legs were shaking so bad I thought they’d just crumple underneath of me. They told me to lean back and my harness snugged up and the slack came out of the rope and I knew I was safe and sound.
“So then, they let me lie back all the way with no hands, completely horizontal and facing the sky, it was a really amazing moment. Then, I started walking my feet down and was able to twist around and look at the street below me and wave to my parents. I was really careful not to go too quickly, because I didn’t want the ’emergency brake’ to engage and have to signal for help, that would have scared my mom.
“It was really cool though, I wasn’t scared at all once I got ‘over the edge,’ the descent down was just really fun and I got a great view of downtown.”
Unlike many of the Over the Edge participants, Bloomfield was not on a team. She registered as an individual.
“I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to do it with me,” she said.
Although the actual event is over, people still can contribute to SOMO in honor of Bloomfield using her Over the Edge webpage [www.somo.kintera.org/edgestl/jkb367].
To my knowledge, I am the first person from the department to go Over the Edge. Several people from the city participate in the Torch Run and Polar Plunge every year, which also benefit SOMO,” Bloomfield said.
As of Nov. 11, Bloomfield had raised $1,150 toward her goal of $2,000. SOMO’s total goal is $150,000 and as of Nov. 11, $62,494 had been donated.
“I am very proud of Officer Bloomfield for continuing the O’Fallon Police Department’s tradition of participating in this wonderful – and terrifying – fundraiser for the Special Olympics,” Police Chief Roy Joachimstaler said. “We have a truly special group of men and women in our department who dedicate their lives to keeping our community safe and making our city a better place to live. Officer Bloomfield’s efforts and our entire department’s support of the Special Olympics, is another example of that commitment.”