IKM-Manning principal takes giant step for Special Olympics
Organization touches more than 11,000 lives across the state
September 20, 2013
Once over the edge, Brian Wall begins to descend the north face of the Financial Building in downtown Des Moines with the city’s skyline in the background. The rappelling event was part of a fund raiser for the Iowa Special Olympics. Wall is the principal at IKM-Manning High School.
(Photos by Jeff Storjohann and Audrey Ingram)
Clouds raced by overhead as IKM-Manning principal Brian Wall glanced down at the supporters waiting 30 stories below. He squared his shoulders and stepped "Over the Edge" to begin the 345-foot descent down the side of the Financial Center in Des Moines Wednesday morning.
"That first part was terrifying," Wall said with a laugh. "Standing on the edge is by far the hardest part of the whole thing. My knees were shaking."
Wall was joined by more than 60 other individuals who participated in the extreme-event fundraiser for Special Olympics Iowa this year, raising more than $70,000. Participants ranged from high school students to state legislative representatives.
Armed with a megaphone and a quick smile, organization president and event emcee Hal Pittman described Wall to the crowd as a "high school principal playing superhero." Wall raised more than $1,600, earning the opportunity to rappel down the side of the downtown Des Moines building.
"It was amazing, looking over Des Moines, with the Capitol on one side and downtown on the other," Wall said of the view from the top. "I spent some time just looking around up there."
He couldn't hear the cheers of encouragement from supporters on the ground until he was several stories down. These supporters included his wife, Denise Wall, IKM-Manning special education teacher and Special Olympics coach Beth Hagedorn and IKM-Manning sophomore and Special Olympics athlete Taylor Gross. When their feet touched earth again, participants were also greeted with flowers and handshakes from three Special Olympics champions - Angela, Trevor and Brian.
"I'm very proud of him," Denise Wall said of her husband. "He wanted to do this a year ago, but he was too late. Since then, he has been saying he was going to do it; then he raised the money and was like, 'Oh, no, now I have to do it!'" she added with a laugh.
Special Olympics Iowa supports more than 80 competitions each year for more than 11,000 athletes across all of Iowa's 99 counties. The competitions are free to the athletes. According to Pittman, the "Over the Edge" event, held each year in Des Moines, is "extremely important" for raising both money and awareness.
"This is all about the athletes at the end of the day," he said.
Main sponsors include Cumulus Des Moines, KCCI TV and Terrus Real Estate Group. The event is also part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Series conducted by police officers across the state. About 15 members of the Iowa State Patrol were on hand Wednesday to support the rappel.
Wall said IKM-Manning should continue to support Special Olympics Iowa by sending "multiple somebodies" to participate next year, offering no hints as to the identity of the individuals he had in mind.
Pittman, who served in the military for 30 years before joining Special Olympics Iowa, said he saw the leadership position as a way to continue to serve the community.
"These athletes, whether children or adults, are all great people," he said. "They want an opportunity to excel and compete, and we provide them with that."
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