No challenge too tall

Oct. 03, 2013 @ 08:59 PM

BULLOCK — When Barbara Ann Elliott goes “over the edge” on Saturday, she won’t be alone. But she might be the only person rappelling with one hand down the Wells Fargo building in Raleigh.

The occasion is Special Olympics North Carolina’s fourth annual Over the Edge fundraiser. Leslie Moyar, director of development for the organization, said more than 140 people will rappel down the Wells Fargo Capitol Center building located on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.

For Elliott, who was born with only one hand, the event may be a little more challenging than it is for most participants. But she discounts the difficulty.

“I’m not handicapped,” she said. “I can do anything anyone else can. It might take me a while to figure it out.”

Elliott has rappelled once before, in 1984 while she was in JROTC in high school.

“The ranger team went to St. Aug’s College and used their rappel tower,” Elliott said.

She said with her left hand she held a rope behind her back.

“My nub was holding me to the rope in front,” Elliott said.

Moyar said the Over the Edge staff will provide training for the participants before the event and will assist them as they make their descents.

The rappelling will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Moyar said four ropes will be operated, and participants will begin rappelling down the 32-story building at 15-minute intervals.

In rappelling, a person is fastened in a harness attached to ropes that are looped through metal devices to control the rate of descent. In the Over the Edge event, trained staff will assist the rappeller throughout the descent.

“They have conducted thousands of these events,” Moyar said. “They have an excellent safety record.”

Elliott has managed to live a full life with one hand. As a young girl, she received a prosthesis through the March of Dimes. It had hooks that she controlled by movement of her arm and shoulder, but she disliked wearing it.

“I would go to school and take it off and put it in my locker,” she said.

Later, she received an artificial hand, which she also disliked because it was heavy.

She has found that she is quite able to manage everyday tasks. She took typing in high school, mastering touch typing on a standard keyboard but using different home keys.

“When the teacher had the other students type 40 words a minute, I had to type 30,” she said. And she eventually got up to 40 words a minute.

Elliott also plays the organ.

“I play chords,” she said.

She said she hasn’t mastered the foot pedals yet.

“The only thing I can’t do is count past six on my fingers, but I’ve got toes,” Elliott said.

Elliott, 47, has four children, a stepson and four grandchildren.

Her husband, Dale, supports her Over the Edge venture, but with reservations. Elliott said when she told him that she intended to participate in the event, he replied, “I will hold your hand while you’re on the ground, but I won’t go off the building with you.”

To qualify for Over the Edge, Elliott had to raise $1,000 for Special Olympics. She has raised $1,108 and hopes for more. Anyone interested in donating to Special Olympics in Elliott’s name can do so by visiting firstgiving.com/fundraiser/BarbaraElliott/oteraleigh.

Over the Edge is just one more hurdle for Elliott. She approaches it like other challenges she has faced and overcome.

“If you want to get me to do something, use the words ‘you can’t,’” she said.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.