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Parkville woman goes over the edge

96-year-old rappels down high rise to help raise money for kidney research

Created date

July 21st, 2014
woman getting read to rappell

If you had to choose a phrase to capture the essence of Evelyn Schroedl, “carpe diem” would be a good choice. An avid tennis player, artist, dancer, and world traveler, the Crest resident can now add daredevil to her list. 

This June, Evelyn rappelled 27 floors down the side of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland’s Fifth Annual Rappel for Kidney Health fundraiser. She was one of 80 people who took the challenge, including Towson University Head Football Coach Rob Ambrose, WJZ Reporter/Anchor Jessica Kartalija, Country Music Executive Lee Adams, and WPOC Producer and Public Director Jeffrey St. Pierre.

“It was very exciting!” says Evelyn. “It was a very interesting afternoon filled with so many wonderful people. There were some scary moments, but it wasn’t too terribly frightening.” 

Evelyn accepted the invitation to rappel from Walt and Marge Stawinski, long-time volunteers for the National Kidney Foundation and also residents of Oak Crest, the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community that sponsored her participation with a $1,000 donation.

 “I was talking to Marge one day, and she asked me if I was afraid of heights,” says Evelyn. “I answered, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ The next thing I knew I was signed up to rappel down the side of a building.” 

Funds raised through Rappel for Kidney Health directly support the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland’s patient services and education and research efforts in the area of kidney and urinary tract diseases. Historically, Rappel for Kidney Health events have drawn more than 250 participants and raised more than $440,000.

Gearing up

Technicians with Over the Edge, a special events company that coordinates rappelling fundraisers for nonprofit organizations around the world, fitted Evelyn with rappelling gear including harnesses, gloves, and a helmet before she ventured to the rooftop of the Marriott for a training session. Then, fastened with two ropes and equipped with a communication radio, Evelyn went over the edge. 

“My main concern was getting the instructions right and then just enjoying the experience,” says Evelyn. “Right before I was ready to go off the side, they asked me to put my arms out and lean back so they could take my picture. I thought to myself, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ But I knew they wouldn’t let me fall.”

With a little gadget called a belay device, Evelyn was able to control the speed as she descended down the shiny glass building.

“If, for some reason, I started to go down too fast, it would stop me,” says Evelyn. “When I finally got to the ground, there was a whole crowd from Oak Crest cheering me on like I was a star.” 

Up for a challenge

This isn’t the first time she has accepted a challenge. In 2010, she came in second place dancing the tango in a charity dance competition at Oak Crest. She also competes on the U.S. Tennis Association League’s Mixed 18 & Over and Mixed 40 & Over teams. 

“We are very proud of Mrs. Schroedl,” says Gary Hibbs, executive director of Oak Crest. “By participating in this event, she not only supported a worthy cause, but also showed that at any age you can always learn, do, and be more than you were the day before. With her humble nature, Evelyn inspires us every day, and she demonstrated that spirit to all of Baltimore.” 

Evelyn, who, incidentally, has a 105-year-old sister, inherited her zest for life and love of adventure from her father, Logan Dyke, who walked on I-beams and steel girders high atop the Baltimore skyline building hotels and high-rise office buildings in the 1920s. But she says she doesn’t think genes are the only thing to do with it.

“I think staying young is more about your attitude toward life,” says Evelyn. “Life is a great gift! I think we all have a responsibility to make our own happiness and live our best life.”