Over The Edge urban rapelling

Later this month, people will rappel down an eight story building in downtown Morgantown.

Libera, a non-profit organization for at-risk West Virginia youth, is hosting a fundraiser called “Go Over the Edge with Libera,” on July 24.

Participants are asked to raise $1,000 and “Go Over The Edge” by rappelling down the Monongahela building.

The fundraiser may be well-intentioned, but is wildly out of touch with recent events.

This past spring, two West Virginia University students died by jumping or falling from roofs in Morgantown. The first is listed as suicide in the WVU campus crime log, and Morgantown police have said they do not suspect foul play in the second.

“If we had known that ahead of time, we might have reconsidered. But we were so far down the track,” Karen Haring, founder and executive director of Libera, said in an interview this week.

She added that planning for the fundraiser began last September.

On its website, Libera describes itself as “a community of mentors who genuinely listen.” But by holding an event with people descending from a building after two students died from falls, the organizers are plugging their ears and going “la la la la la!”

Over a dozen local organizations have signed on as sponsors of the event, including WELL WVU, the school’s Office of Wellness and Health Promotions.

The two students' deaths this spring were traumatic for students, professors and many others in the community. The events sparked a campus-wide conversation about mental health after months of online classes and social isolation during the pandemic.

Libera, please consider the student walking on the street below your ill-conceived fundraiser. They might look up above, see people on a roof and fear another one of their classmates is about to die by suicide.

Haring, the organizer, said this event is to help raise money for Libera’s programs and services which help at-risk youth, women and teens. She argued that sometimes this help is providing people with mental health resources.

“We get kids and adults connected to crisis lines, get them connected to the crisis text line, Help For West Virginia line, we get connected to counselors,” Haring said. “So what we're doing is actually helping kids and adults get connected to the help they need.”

Great. Libera does important work for a worthwhile cause.

Still, there are plenty of ways to raise money that don’t involve people descending from the top of a building.

Holding this event is poorly timed and borders on completely tone-deaf. You’d expect better from an organization that claims to “genuinely listen.”

Summer Editor

Lara Bonatesta is new to the DA this year. She is from Branchburg, New Jersey and is a sophomore journalism major and minor in trumpet performance.