An admittedly nervous Jody Nelsen was the first to step off the roof of a downtown Sacramento hotel, just ahead of Sac State’s mascot, Herky the Hornet.

“We’ve been together 43 years, and I don’t want to lose her now,” said University President Robert S. Nelsen as he proudly watched his wife rappel 16 stories from the hotel roof to the street below Friday morning, June 8.

“Woohoo! Go, Jody!”

Jody Nelsen and Jael YoungPeak Adventures Director Jael Young and Jody Nelsen get ready to go "Over the Edge." (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Their bold descent kicked off the third annual “Over the Edge” fundraiser for Stanford Youth Solutions (SYS), a local agency that works to keep families together and find permanent homes for foster youth.

The duo was joined by four other brave Sac State “edger” teammates who rappelled off the top of the Residence Inn by Marriott more than 170 feet to a waiting crowd of cheering campus supporters. They were:

  • Noel Mora, 2018-19 president of Associated Students Inc. (ASI).
  • Rachael Dal Porto, ASI’s 2018-19 executive vice president.
  • Mark Orr, director of Athletics.
  • Jael Young, director of Peak Adventures.

Sacramento State, the event’s main financial sponsor, has strong ties to SYS. Nearly one-quarter of the 116-member staff is made up of Sac State alumni and current students, who provide counseling, support, and other services to clients. In addition, Jim Dragna, executive director of University Initiatives and Student Success, serves on the SYS board of directors.

“It looks like fun from down here,” Dragna said as Herky made his way down the side of the hotel.

“We are so grateful for Sac State’s sponsorship,” said Melissa Arnold, SYS community relations director. “Our (client) families are feeling like they’re on the edge of potentially being separated, so we go ‘Over the Edge’ as a way to acknowledge that we can relate to them and face our own fears.”

More than 60 people had signed up to go “Over the Edge” after the Sac State team completed its urban mountaineering experience. The two previous “Over the Edge” events brought in a total of $207,000.

The Sac State team members – decked out in safety helmets and harnesses and tethered by two thick ropes – descended from the roof much faster than the anticipated 12 to 20 minutes organizers predicted. And they seemed relieved to reach the bottom.

On his way down, Mora waved to a little girl watching through a hotel window. Dal Porto, whose descent was almost balletic, grinned when she landed and delivered a classic “Stingers Up” salute to the crowd.

“Standing on the edge up there, I didn’t feel secure at all,” Jody Nelsen said afterward, “but once I sat back I was OK. I wanted to look down to see where I was, but I was too scared.

“I thought, ‘Just breathe.’ ”

Orr, a football standout at Sacramento’s Christian Brothers High School in the early 1990s and later at UC Berkeley, made his rappelling debut with “Over the Edge.” He admitted being apprehensive at first but confidently picked up speed halfway down.

“Now that’s off my bucket list. I can say I rappelled down a building,” Orr said. “It wasn’t on my bucket list until today.” – Dixie Reid