By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – As a licensed pilot, Sara MacLean flies her family's Cesna 182 single-engine airplane several times a week out of Worcester. Heights don's bother her. The mother of three children and grandmother of five, she is the director of student services for the company?SkillWorks, Inc. and is also a passionate supporter for the Special Olympics.
Although she is an active 62-year-old, she readily admits she is “not very athletic.” But when she was given the opportunity to rappel 22 floors down the side of the Hyatt Regency in Boston as part of the Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) “Over the Edge” fundraiser in June, she quickly accepted the challenge.
MacLean lives in Northborough with her husband, Ken, who is the former Sudbury Fire Department fire chief. Living with the couple are son Alex, his wife, Rachel, and their three kids; and daughter Kate. Their daughter, Emily, lives in Seattle with her husband Carey and two children.
Kate, 26, has been a Special Olympian for nearly the last two decades.
“It's such a great program, it's so heartwarming and there's so much love and camaraderie,” MacLean said. “It's not about winning but rather 100 percent enjoying the experience.”
MacLean and her husband had always volunteered for Special Olympics fundraisers. The chance to rappel down the side of the Boston hotel seemed like a great way, she said, to help raise some needed funds for the organization.
“They also have Polar Plunges each year but there is no way I was going to do that! I would rather rappel down a building twice as high as 22 floors!” she laughed.
To participate, she had to raise $1,000, which she did through the generosity of her family and friends.
“My family was all in favor of me doing this,” she noted. “They were really encouraging.”
The day of the rappel, the company, “Over the Edge,” who oversees around 150 of these types of events a year, helped to prepare her.
“They are excellent,” she said. “Safety is paramount. They are so professional and thorough. Even though my stomach was falling a little bit, I still felt a great sense of security. They had redundant systems in place so you are always safe.”
The hardest part, she said, was when she was perched on the edge of the building and then told to lean back to get into position.
“That was a little difficult because they had to make sure you were in the proper position,” she said.
But once she started going down, she said, “It seemed like it only took about three to four minutes.”
Now that the event is over, she is already thinking about participating again next year. And hopefully, she said, husband Ken will consider joining her.
“My family definitely got a kick out of this,” MacLean said. “But they were proud, too.”