Brave Chicagoans Take 27-Story Plunge At the Wit Hotel For Charity

By Erica Demarest on May 5, 2013 12:13pm 

THE LOOP — Guests at theWit Hotel got an eyeful Sunday when more than 70 people rappelled down the side of the 27-story building.

"Some people [in their rooms] were just reading," Victoria Waliczek said after her 278-foot descent down the hotel. "Other people were waving at me."

Waliczek joined 70 fellow adventurers at theWit, 201 N. State St., to fundraise for the Respiratory Health Association, which supports lung disease research and education.  

“It was nerve-racking," said Waliczek, 37, whose best friend's mother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. "But my only thought was [my friend's mom] Patty. If she could fight through lung cancer and chemotherapy and radiation, I can rappel down a building."

Participants sought sponsors before Sunday's Skyline Plunge event and raised a total of $100,000, said Joel Africk, president and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association.

“Chicago doesn’t meet federal air quality standards," rappeller Kristy Allen said. "I’m raising kids in the South Loop."

Allen's children cheered on their mother from the ground. Allen said she had never rappelled before, but practiced at a rock-climbing wall in her gym.

"This is a lot bigger," she said with a laugh.

Participants received about an hour of training before the plunge began. They performed a one-story descent and could bail if they didn't feel comfortable — though that was rare, Africk said.

"You really don't need a lot of training beforehand," he said. "But we do advise people not to go out drinking the night before.”

Evelyn Lozano, a 25-year-old housekeeper at theWit, said she was "very comfortable" with her descent. Lozano joined the plunge after winning a staff raffle. The prize was a trip down the building.

“It was a good experience," Lozano said. "I'm glad I did it."

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