Community is ‘Over the Edge’ for UCC’s Bethany Children’s Home

The Rev. Sharon Morris, associate conference minister of the UCC’s Pennsylvania Southeast Conference, went ‘Over the Edge’ for Bethany Children’s Home at the 2016 event.

The United Church of Christ’s Bethany Children’s Home in Berks County, Pa., has a unique approach to fund raising, and it’s sending the community “Over the Edge” (OTE) in support of the children and teens Bethany helps.

The second annual “OTE4Bethany” event — which takes place Sept. 22, 2017 — is an opportunity for individuals and teams to earn a spot for rappelling 80 feet down the side of the 525 Student Apartments on Lancaster Avenue in Reading, Pa. Individuals and teams must raise at least $1,000 from friends, family members and colleagues in order to participate in the actual rappel.

“In 2016, 62 individuals went Over the Edge for Bethany,” says Meggan Kerber, Bethany’s director of development. “In 2017, we hope to have 75 individuals go over, which would be eight hours of rappel time. The top three individuals and top three fundraising teams are recognized at the Bethany Annual Tribute Breakfast.”

The 2016 event raised more than $95,000 and benefited Bethany’s music, art, recreation and therapeutic programs. This year’s event hopes to break that record, and will support the medical needs of Bethany youth.

“Medical expenses range from dental care and eyeglasses to prescriptions and counseling services not supported by medical coverage and/or other resources,” says Kerber.

The event is open to the rappellers — or “Edgers,” as they’re known — and to the entire community. “The community is welcome to join us for the day and enjoy the ‘Base Camp’ activities, such as the National Guard climbing tower, games, chalk art, face painting, free food samplings, a DJ and more,” Kerber says.

Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) was one of the enthusiastic rappellers at the 2016 Over the Edge event.

Bethany Children’s Home, a CHHSM-member ministry, serves males and females between the ages of 8 and 21 from surrounding Pennsylvania counties, with more than 61 percent from Berks County. The youth arrive at Bethany with some degree of trauma, including abandonment; exposure to crime, violence or poverty; physical and/or sexual abuse; and drug and alcohol exposure, among others.

OTE “provides an avenue for us to share our mission and ministry with the local community,” Kerber says. “Creating awareness on the trauma kids endure from abuse, abandonment and neglect is critical. Kids should be able to have a childhood … to live, to learn, to grow, not to survive, struggle and be scared.”

Many Edgers participate to show the children and youth that the community has their backs, “that they will stand by their side and help them overcome their challenges, take back their lives, and set goals for the future,” says Kerber. “It is an opportunity for them to connect with our youth on a more personal level by listening to their stories.”

Others participate as a way of giving back. One Edger told Kerber that he grew up dealing with many of the same issues as the Bethany children and youth. OTE4Bethany is just one way he gives back and says “thanks.”

In the end, helping the children and youth is the bottom line. “Over the Edge helps our kids to see that the community does care for them,” Kerber adds, “and wants to help them build the hope, strength, and courage for a brighter future.”

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