People downtown were craning their necks yesterday to watch 95 people scale down the roof of the Westin Convention Center for the Shatterproof Challenge—a fundraiser and awareness campaign for Shatterproof, a new national organization committed to protecting children from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. The first Shatterproof Challenge in Pittsburgh was a sold out event that raised over $90,000 for the nonprofit.

After losing his son to addiction, Gary Mendell, founded Shatterproof in 2012. With a personal commitment of $5 million, Mendell—a member of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative—set the goal of transforming the way addiction is prevented and treated, as well as ending the stigma associated with it.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 20 million Americans age 12 or older use illegal drugs each month and fifteen Americans die every hour to addiction.

In a Clinton Health Matters Conference in 2013, Mendell shared the pain of losing his son. “I wish I could tell you the anguish dulls with time. But it intensifies in me with the knowledge that my son died of a disease that is preventable, but that we do not prevent; that is treatable, but that we do not treat; that is undeniable, but that we continually deny.”

The Shatterproof Challenge is one of the organization’s awareness and fundraising campaigns and rappelling from buildings symbolizes “what it means to get above it all.”

Leah Lizarondo, NEXTPittsburgh Contributing Editor took the challenge. “Rappelling down the Westin was certainly exhilarating! And seeing all of Shatterproof’s supporters, including individuals who themselves are in recovery, was eye-opening. We often dismiss addiction as a lifestyle choice that can be overcome by “willpower” but it is a disease that needs our attention. This was a great day to “rise up” and spread the word.”

Photo by Summarae Craighead

Contributing editor Leah Lizarondo contributed to this video with her GoPro while videographer Micah Wolf of MGW Productions shot more footage and put this together.

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment....