Donors rappel 137 feet down Mercantile Center to raise money for local nonprofit

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By Devin Bates

WORCESTER — A local nonprofit helped people reach new heights on Saturday to raise money for children and teenagers with disabilities.

For the second year, Canines for Disabled Kids invited donors to rappel 137 feet from the roof of the Mercantile Center as part of the organization’s Over the Edge event.

If you’re afraid of heights, nothing can prepare you for the moment you’re asked to trust the ropes and let them hold your weight.

Kristin Hartness, executive director of Canines for Disabled Kids, said it’s a leap of faith that can help give people some perspective.

“It’s a unique and rare opportunity for people to do something outside of their comfort zone and have to rely on tools in a way that those of us living with disabilities and using service dogs rely on tools every day,” Hartness said.

The nonprofit works to give their clients a more independent life free-of-charge.

Its programs awarded 21 scholarships in 2019, relying heavily on donations.

More than a dozen people rappelled down the Mercantile Center, including mascots from the Worcester Bravehearts, Worcester Railers and Massachusetts Pirates.

Among the crowd of daredevils was Ericha Flateau, who told Spectrum News 1 this was her second year taking the plunge.

“Last year was a little bit anxiety-inducing, I just wanted to focus more on getting to the bottom,” Flateau said. “This year, I was a lot more comfortable and able to slow myself down, take in the sights and enjoy it a lot more.”

Flateau’s son, Austin, has refractory epilepsy and for eight years, he’s benefitted from a seizure alert dog named Paris from Canines for Disabled Kids.

“We got Paris to help us get some better knowledge about when his seizures were occurring, so that way we could manage his epilepsy a little bit better,” Flateau said. “We’re happy to say he just had a completely clear EEG, so not a single seizure was found.”

Money that was raised will support educational programs on service dogs in schools, and help provide scholarships for kids and teenagers, like Austin, so families can afford to get a service dog.