Erica Harvey was first introduced to Over the Edge in 2013 but decided not to participate – a decision she came to regret. The following year, Erica jumped at the opportunity to take part in the event. After her first year rappelling, she began volunteering at the Summer and Winter Games competitions where she was quickly welcomed into the Special Olympics Massachusetts community. This year, Erica has taken charge and will for her second year captain an Over the Edge team. Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) sat down with Erica to discuss her history with Over the Edge, her relationship to the SOMA, and what this event truly means to her.
SOMA: First, tell me a little about your history with Over the Edge? It is certainly an event that requires you to have an adventurous side – did that appear to be a factor when registering your first time?
Erica: I first heard about Over the Edge through work, Wayfair.com. I didn’t partake the first year and spent the next year kicking myself for not doing it because it looked so fun! I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to do something extreme but I’ve always been obsessed with heights and aerial photography so getting a view of the city I hadn’t been able to before was a huge factor!
SOMA: It’s certainly a beautiful view. Over the Edge is typically a “bucket list” event for a lot of our participants. With the exception of a few hardcore SOMA supporters in the mix, usually participants come for the event itself, not the mission it supports. What keeps you coming back year after year?
Erica: Every year, the rappel and the events leading up to the rappel are different, there are new team members to bond and fundraise with, new rappellers to share the day with and best of all, new people learning about the cause and what the athletes do.
SOMA: Did you have a personal connection to SOMA prior to joining Over the Edge, or perhaps you have one now that you’ve stuck around?
Erica: The first year I did the rappel, I did not volunteer at the games, but found that people donating wanted to see more so I started volunteering at the Summer and Winter Games. As much as they’re great photo opportunities to get more donations, the competitions are a TON of fun too. I had no real ties to the Games but every athlete you meet has their own story and quickly immerses you into their community. The last Winter Games, Jose and Johnny “Love” had me cracking up on the bowling lanes.
On a more personal level, I do it for my dad and with my best friend.
My dad passed when I was in high school, but always encouraged me to help others since he was a police officer in Lowell and probably pushed the wild side in me a little too much for my mom’s liking! When we’d go on family vacations, he was always the one to make me try new foods or to let me pick out the excursions which usually involved a helicopter or something up high!
My best friend was also diagnosed with CIDP, which paralyzed him for a year around the time of my first rappel three years ago and we both found ourselves to be lucky in a bad situation so we wanted to spread the love and find a cause we could both 100% support. It’s been easy for him to volunteer with me at the Games because everybody is so understanding of an individual’s needs.
SOMA: Personal connections are what drive most of our supporters and fundraisers. In 2015, you went a step further and captained your corporate team, Wayfair. What motivated you to take on that role?
Erica: Overexcitement! I realized that I had started fundraising the same time the previous year so I started asking around. When I realized nobody had grabbed the reins, I figured I needed to so that we could get as much fundraising time as possible in.
SOMA: You are team captain again this year, but for a different team. Tell me about your new team – who/how do you plan to recruit?
Erica: This year was tricky recruiting as Wayfair has a large office and plenty of people to reach out to. My new job is more international so getting people here posed a trick, but some friends know I’ve done it and have signed up to rappel alongsid
e me. I think the fact that I’ve been able to raise the money and survive the actual rappel is proof they can do it too. Anybody can! My sister will be signing up soon, so it’ll be a family affair this year and I’M excited for that!
SOMA: What are your techniques for engaging your teammates and how do you plan to fundraise as a team?
ERICA: Usually we just message or text each other, especially this year with a small team. Last year we were doing a lot of communication via email. We’ll get together here and there to plan, but a lot is deciding who can do what and acting on our own. This year we’re hoping to have some raffles, maybe a bake sale and will be placing out some donation jars at local stores. Obviously more will come up, but this is just the tip of the iceberg!
SOMA: Tell me a little about your fundraising strategies. No need to give all of your secrets away, but I’m hoping you might have some tips/tricks that our other fundraisers can benefit from. Who do you reach out to, and how? Any words of wisdom for fellow fundraisers?
Erica: Social media is your best friend. I post on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook OFTEN. I find that nobody will say no or tell you to stop posting for a worthy cause so I’m a bit shameless.
I’ve teased my friends that I’ll post more cat pictures if they don’t donate, asked for donations corresponding to my birthday ($28 for my 28th, so on) and other special days and always post pictures from the games or any volunteer days related to the rappel (one year Color Me Rad was fundraising for Special Olympics so I volunteered there).
Now that it’s June, I’ll start messaging or emailing people that haven’t donated yet, especially if I’ve donated to them or they’ve mentioned they would later. Always remind the ones who say “later”! They do mean it, but life happens and they forget!
If you would like to donate to Erica Harvey, you can do so here: http://www.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1155121&lis=1&kntae1155121=419FC9975C804CC6B88EAFC34CB54D8C&supId=434959284
If you would like to register for Over the Edge, please do so here: www.OverTheEdgeBoston.com