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Attorneys go Over the Edge for charity

Frank T. Crego of Forsyth, Howe, O’Dwyer, Kalb & Murphy PC rappels from First Federal Building in downtown Rochester on Friday. Vasiliy Baziuk

Attorneys may think the stress of the job sometimes throws them over the edge, but a few found out Friday what the term means literally.

Some area lawyers were among the few dozen people who took a leap of faith from the top of the Crossroads Building to raise money for the Seneca Waterways Council of Boy Scouts of America.

Not quite as graceful as Spiderman, the brave souls scaled 21 Stories for Scouts in a rappelling event under the skilled guidance of members of Over the Edge, a Canadian special events company that provides signature events to help North American nonprofit organizations raise money.

“I’ve always been an ardent supporter of the Boy Scouts for years and I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Frank Crego, an attorney at Forsyth, Howe, O’Dwyer, Kalb & Murphy PC. “It’s an adventure.”

Crego said he had never done anything like rappelling other than climbing ratlines (rope ship ladders) in the service “decades ago.”

After briefly training in a stairwell with Brian Hughes, a rope technician, Crego headed up to the roof where Darien Dopp, another rope technician, assured him it was safe to go over the edge.

“C’mon Frank, you can do it,” coaxed Mark Catlin, a Boy Scout staffer. “The hardest part is when they lean. Once you’re over, you realize the equipment works, but you watch their faces and until they get over, it’s like ‘What am I doing?’”

Safety Supervisor Tim White said a two-rope system is used in compliance with all safety regulations. The second rope is a backup. White said Over the Edge members calm anxieties by showing the level of confidence and comfort they have in the process.

“Frank was pretty scared, but he did great,” Dopp said, noting the faces tell it all. “You just don’t want them to think about what they’re going to do. You try to keep their minds off the fact that they’re that high off the ground.”

Crego, who got off to a quick start, successfully rappelled the 21 Stories for Scouts, rejoining his wife Susan on the 19th floor staging area where spectators could also watch the rappellers descend 309 feet.

“I asked him this morning if he was anxious and he said ‘not particularly,’” Susan Crego said. “He had his hip replaced in January and felt he was all set to go and here he is.”

Crego said it was an experience like none other he has had before, noting his muscles were tense all the way down.

“I never really relaxed,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get down. I’m not acrophobic, but I didn’t want to tempt fate. You have to step over the edge of the top of a building and lean back a long way before you can take a step.”

Waiting with Susan Crego was Bob Kessler, a partner at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP who is also on the Boy Scouts committee to recruit rappellers.

Each participant had to raise $1,000 in order to rappel. Kessler said some raised it on their own and some were sponsored by their firms or companies. He said some rappellers raised more than $1,000.

The money supports the urban scouting after-school and summer camp programs for less fortunate city children. Kessler said among the incentives to recruit participants was a “Toss Your Boss” program in which employees could raise the money to throw their fearless (or fearful) leaders over the edge.

That is how Michael Burger, a litigation attorney and partner at Davidson Fink LLP, got involved, although he noted the term “boss” was probably used loosely by the staff, colleagues, family and friends who raised more than the entry fee.

The rappel was a piece of cake for Burger who has sky dived and gone bungee jumping. In fact, he thought he would be a little disappointed because he learned rappelling was slower than he thought.

“As it turned out, you could go a little bit faster than that,” he said. “There was more excitement than you might think. Just leaning over the edge was a thrill.”

Burger, who was a Cub Scout, but never continued in Boy Scouts, said the idea of being able to help other kids have the scouting experience was a great incentive to him. Like a kid, when he got to the bottom, he was ready to go back up for seconds.

“I wanted to do it again because now I had a better sense of the equipment and I thought I could do it more quickly,” he said, joking that it would also give his wife, federal defender Anne Burger, another chance to win the life insurance lottery.

Both Burgers work in the Crossroads building where Anne Burger watched her husband through the windows of the 17th and fourth floors, tracking his descent.

Kessler said Kodak attorney Tim Lynch went Over the Edge last year, so this year, he sent his wife Barb.

Attorneys weren’t the only ones going off the wall. Many individuals and business men and women also went over the edge including Frank Distasio, a supervising paralegal at Relin, Goldstein & Crane LLP.

Frank H. Hamlin III, president of Canandaigua National Bank & Trust, was scheduled to rappel the 21 stories later in the afternoon. The Daily Record even sent one of its own, production artist Victoria Story, off the top of the building Thursday as part of a media event.

“The hardest part is the first step,” Story said.

Kessler said the Scouts are trying to make the fundraiser an annual event, gaining more rappellers every year. He said next year, they would like to get someone from each branch of the military. Interested in creating a once-in-a-lifetime memory, call the Seneca Waterways Council, 474 East Ave., at (585) 244-4210.