Community Relations: Jump for Scouting

This post is a recap written by Nathan Casper, our Corporate Communications Associate, highlighting his experience at the event.

This morning I represented Shift4 at the Jump for Scouting event atop the Stratosphere Tower. Aside from being there as a representative of the sponsoring organization, I was also afforded the singular opportunity to leap from the top of the Stratosphere on the SkyJump thrill ride.

The event went off with out a hitch. Mother Nature cooperated beautifully providing a picturesque morning sky (complete with a rainbow over the Sheep Mountains) as a backdrop for the event and keeping the winds just below the no-go threshold set by SkyJump safety regulations.

Fifteen local business leaders and politicians participated in the event (including the Mayor of Henderson and two candidates currently running for the mayoral seat in Las Vegas).
In all nearly $20,000 was donated to the Scoutreach program, which benefits at-risk and underprivileged children in Las Vegas by establishing Scout troops in their communities.

The Scouting officials were very appreciative of the donations made by Shift4 and the personal donation made by Dave and Kathy Oder (our CEO and COO, respectively). They expressed interest in meeting Dave and Kathy to thank them personally and even mentioned getting Shift4 a seat on the local Scout council’s Board of Directors.

That’s the end of the business portion of this update, so if you’re not interested in my personal account of the event, feel free to quit reading now. If you want to hear about the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in the name of business, then read on.

My day started at 5:30, when I woke before my alarm with a pit in my stomach and an impeding sense of near-certain doom. I got ready for the day and kissed my wife goodbye, making sure to tell her I loved her – just in case.

As I drove to the Stratosphere I was struck by the same thought that has plagued me for the past two weeks, “Holy cow that thing is huge, and I’m going to jump off it!” The trouble with the Stratosphere is that no matter where you go in the Las Vegas Valley, it is always visible – so for the past two weeks I have been constantly reminded of my own insanity at volunteering to participate.

As I got closer to the Stratosphere the building grew from a landmark on the horizon, to a massive, frightening edifice so tall that I could only see the bottom third in my windshield. I leaned my head out the window of my car and strained my neck looking up. The news helicopter from channel 8 was hovering at the height of the tower, filming the first jumper of the day as he made his leap.

I made my way inside, through the labyrinth of slot machines and drunken revelers, and to the base camp for the SkyJump. I checked in, and was told to wait outside until it was my turn to suit up. Outside I was warmly greeted by Scout executives and Cub Scouts who innocently told me how crazy they thought I was for doing this. (They had already seen a few people come down by the time I got checked in and signed my life away).

Now at the base of the tower, I had a true sense of its colossal height. It seemed surreal as I watched other jumpers make the 855-foot dive. That surreal calm left the moment my name was called to suit up. I donned a one piece jumpsuit (no pun intended) and a monster harness.

Once dressed, I was weighed and escorted to the scariest elevator in the world. Up, up, up I went – 108 floors above the Las Vegas Strip. Stepping out of the elevator, I was struck with a stunning panoramic view of the Las Vegas Valley. It was beautiful, and then – being the glutton for punishment I am – I stepped over to the edge and looked down. If I was prone to expletives, it would have been prime time to drop some choice phrases.

Watching the simplicity of the machine I was struck with the realization that there was only one wire connecting me to the deceleration device – and, essentially, to my life. No backups, no fail-safes, and… no looking back. My name was called. It was my turn.

I stepped into the equipment room and was hooked to a safety cord. My harness was checked and rechecked and then the doors opened to a platform. Looking back now, I’m sure it was larger, but at that moment in looked about the size of a doormat.

“OK, hold on to the rail while I clip you in,” the attendant said. I froze as I heard him unclip my safety line and didn’t feel much better when I heard the main cable click onto my harness.

“Hang your toes over the edge and then I’ll start the countdown.” I would pay to have a picture of the face I shot him when he told me to hang my toes over – the moment when my expression went from “yeah right, buddy” to “oh gees, you’re serious.” I inched forward, looking down to confirm my feet were in fact doing what I was trying to do. I felt strangely disconnected from my feet (I think they realized what I was doing was nuts).

I saw my toes, hanging over the edge and then saw what was beyond that edge – NOTHING – eight-hundred-plus-feet of nothingness and then an infinitely small landing pad on the roof below.

“Three!” he said, my mind whizzing with thought of all the things that could go wrong.

“Two.” Suddenly peace, I realized that thousands had done this before me and they had all survived.

“One.” Peace gone, fear back, just because they had survived didn’t mean I would. I froze. I gripped the handrails with all my might – I wouldn’t be surprised to go back and see indentations from my fingers. Every muscle in my body clinched with similar terror, and every part of my carnal being screamed “NO!” But then peer pressure kicked in – everyone was watching, I had to do it.

I leapt. For a few moments I could not feel the harness or cable and I again was faced with my own mortality. I was certain that death would result from my jump and found peace with that. Then I felt the straps catch my weight. Relief, of the variety I have never before felt. I breathed for what felt like the first time since the elevator ride some 10 minutes before. My stomach caught up with my descending body and the scary-roller-coaster feeling subsided. I was flying. Well, maybe not, but in the words of Buzz Lightyear, I was “falling with style.” The view was stunning and the feeling unlike any I have ever experienced.

I landed, not very gracefully, but I was glad to be back on solid ground. And then the rush – adrenaline, relief, invincibility … I’m not sure exactly what hit me, but I felt like a superhero. I looked at the vertical wall next to me and honestly thought, “I bet I could do one of those Jackie Chan back-flips off the wall right now.” (Luckily I didn’t attempt it or I would probably still be waiting in the Urgent Care for stitches in my head.)

I was congratulated and presented with a plaque, some pictures, and a DVD of my jump (which I will upload to YouTube later for those who want to see it). It was awesome. One of the Cub Scouts in attendance snapped a salute, which I returned – feeling rather like the President disembarking from Marine One. I wasn’t really sure if I should use two fingers, like he did, or three, because I’m not sure I ever graduated from Cub Scout to Boy Scout… but whatever I ended up doing worked for him and a smile lit up his face.

It was terrifying. It was invigorating. It was insane. But mostly, it was an honor to be able to help a great organization to reach out to kids who really need what they offer. These kids are learning to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent and in their communities in this day and age, there are not many other places for them to learn these skills. (Woah, check it out, I know the Scout Law… somebody should upgrade me from Bobcat—since I’m pretty sure that’s the last merit badge I ever earned).

Nathan Casper
Corporate Communications Associate
Shift4 Corporation