Lagniappe Weekly – March 12, 2018
By Mark J. Bryant
The 74 Club is a group of volunteers with a very simple mission: to help those in need. The sky’s the limit for what projects the organization will undertake to raise the funds necessary to provide assistance to local nonprofits and individuals.
In 2016, club members conceived their most impressive venture yet. The inaugural Over the Edge event allowed participants the chance to rappel 200 feet off the Mobile Marriott on Airport Boulevard. The event was a smashing success, with more than $100,000 raised.
Interest in the unique challenge has continued, and the third annual Over the Edge is set for this Friday and Saturday. Having surpassed $100,000 last year, a similar total is this year’s fundraising goal.
In order to reach these amounts, participants are asked to raise a minimum of $1,000 to support the charitable efforts of The 74 Club and Dennis Langan Construction. Net proceeds have been donated in the past to such groups as Camp Smile, McKemie Place, Mobile ARC, St. Mary’s Home, The Family Center and The Shriners Children’s Transportation Fund.
A new entity — the Mobile Law Enforcement Foundation — join the list this year. Since being established in 2007, the foundation has advocated for and promoted the goals of the Mobile Police Department and its members, provided education, training and wellness programs, and conducted research for the development of police officers. Organizers say a portion of this year’s proceeds will go to promote the foundation, which will have members rappelling down the Marriott.
“Over the Edge gives participants the opportunity to help the less fortunate in our area and experience the thrill of rappelling more than 200 feet while friends, family and the community watch,” said Randy Copeland, board member of The 74 Club.
Local celebrities and media personalities are scheduled to rappel on Friday, while the main event will take place Saturday. Copeland said Jake Coker, former quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide and St. Paul’s Episcopal School, would be present Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon to sign autographs.
The first 90 individuals who raise at least $1,000 have the opportunity to participate. Those wishing to donate but not rappel may also contribute. Because of the 74 Club’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, all donations are 100 percent tax deductible.
The 74 Club gets its name from the fact that several members were in the 1974 graduating class at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. Some of the friends had been participating in volunteer projects since 2003, but it was in 2010 that one of their own became their mission.
“One of our former classmates got sick with cancer, and we put together a golf tournament to help with expenses and to provide emotional support,” Copeland said. Although their friend lost her battle with cancer, they have continued hosting the Lydia Leon Bennett Memorial Golf Tournament in her honor.
It was at this point the group incorporated and officially became The 74 Club. Among the other events listed on its website (the74club.org) are The 74 Club Spring Benefit Table Dance, a barbecue fundraiser for an uninsured cancer patient, the Moon Pie Toss to benefit St. Mary’s Home, the Luck of the Irish Cook-Off and the Dragon Boat Races.
Copeland, the president of specialty valve and expansion joint distributor RMC and Associates, said the rappelling idea started in summer 2015 when he received a call from a customer. On a flight into Gulfport, among the passengers were people wearing “Over The Edge” shirts. When asked about the equipment they carried, the reply was they were going to rappel off the Beau Rivage casino.
“My customer had played in our golf tournament, so he knew we were always looking for ways to raise money for charities,” Copeland said. “The OTE organizers invited us to Memphis for their next event. They do about 125 around the country, but never in Mobile.
“We saw about 60 participants going down a 30-story building. We came back enthusiastic about hosting our own event.”
That passion has not subsided. To see the individuals and groups that have signed up to participate this weekend, please visit otemobile.com.
Copeland said the event is open to anyone. The OTE organizers had a 94-year-old man rappel in Cincinnati, while persons with disabilities have also participated. Young people can participate with their parents’ consent.
“Even if you don’t go down the building, we will have food tents and music in the parking lots,” Copeland said. “This will be a great family event.”