Don’t fall down!

Big Brothers Big Sisters go over the edge at Downtown’s Courthouse Square

Going down 27 stories of the KeyBank Tower; photo: Big Brother Big Sisters Miami Valley

By Terri Gordon

Imagine standing atop the KeyBank building in downtown Dayton, looking out over the Miami Valley. Now look down. You are 27 stories above the street. Now imagine tying a rope around yourself—and stepping over the edge of the building to “walk” backwards all the way down the side of the building. Whaaat?! Yes! People do it! Every year. Every year, a select group of folks goes “Over the Edge” to celebrate the funds they’ve raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley (BBBSGMV)! And they’re set to do it again.

This year’s event takes place on Friday, Oct. 6. Attendees of the 7th annual Over the Edge can see 90 people—those who were first to raise $1000 —rappel 27 stories, a full 347 feet, down KeyBank Tower into Courthouse Square. Rappelling begins at 11 a.m. and goes until 6 p.m.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program began over a century ago in New York, when a court clerk noticed an inordinate number of young boys being brought through the penal system. He felt there must be a better way so he started Big Brothers, teaming young boys with “big brothers” who could act as guides and mentors in hopes that that guidance would help them find a better path, avoid trouble, and be successful in life. A similar program for girls began around the same time and the two organizations combined in 1977 to make up Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Mentoring young people is an intensive task. It takes time, yes, but more, it takes devotion and commitment. While technically, “Bigs” are obligated to only a couple of activities, and a few hours, with their “Little” each month, the fact is that, like teachers and others who work with children, it goes beyond that. It is an emotional connection and comes with all the responsibilities of such. It is a relationship.

Jeff “JB” Brown became a Big close to three years ago and it was not a decision he took lightly. He’d been doing other things to support the organization, mostly fundraising, but he’d not taken on the role of mentor.

“I decided to actually make that leap to being a Big Brother,” he says.

Many of the children served (over 500 in the Dayton area) come from single-parent families, have parents in jail, or are being raised by grandparents. Of course, poverty can play role—with parental figures spread too thin to offer good one-on-one time and energy. Left to themselves, they can get caught up in bad situations, develop bad habits, and wind up in a bad place—all for taking one bad turn.

Brown recognizes the power of a good role model, and wants to be the role model that helps someone have a better life.

“I grew up with a father in the home,” says Brown, “and I know the importance of having a positive role model, and what it can do for your life. There’s a lot of young men, and young women, who don’t have that and are just one good role model, or good mentor, away from being successful—and not just being a statistic.”

But it isn’t just Bigs doing the work. Behind every Big is a cadre of support staff—caseworkers and others who make it all run smoothly—the proverbial village.

Brown has gone Over the Edge a few times now—he’s found fundraising success in Poker Tournaments. While he finds the first step over the side of the building a bit “nerve-wracking,” he knows it’s really a privilege, and is fine once he gets going.

“Aside from the money being raised, I think the most important thing is to bring awareness of what this organization is doing for the community, and for the youth within the community,” says Brown. “We need more people. We need more Bigs. There’s more children that are in need than there are Bigs.”

Of his new experience with mentoring, Brown has nothing but good things to say. “It’s just a rewarding feeling to know you have this person putting their trust in you, and confiding in you, and who, depending on the situation, may not have anyone else to go to to learn about something, he says. “even when the time comes where he ages out, where he wouldn’t be my Little Brother, he’ll always be my little brother. I will still always look out for him and be there to talk to him. That’s the relationship that just developed.”

While the rappelling continues, a “Drop Party” begins at 4 p.m. The band, Hey There Morgan, will provide entertainment, and there will be food trucks, wine, and craft beer from Warped Wing. Admission is free.

BBBSGMV will also be selling raffle tickets throughout the day. The prize is Friday night use of the 937 Party Bus for 14 people. Tickets are $10. Ticket holders do not have to be present at the 8 p.m. drawing to win.

Information about the Over the Edge event, or BBBSGMV is available at:

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Freelance writer Terri Gordon writes across a range of topics, including nature, health, and homes and gardens. She holds a masters in English and occasionally teaches college composition and literature. Her blog, WordWorks ( is a "bulletin board" of some of her favorite things.

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