Spider Turley Descends to Cut Ribbon For BRIDGES

Posted by michael on Jun 23, 2015

(Memphis – memphismagazine.com) — On Monday afternoon, June 22, as the temperature pushed up past 90 degrees and dark clouds and warm winds promised a rain that would never come, a small group of dignitaries and stakeholders gathered at the corner of A.W. Willis Avenue and North Fourth Street for a ribbon cutting. The dedication of the new outdoor rock-climbing wall on the western face of the iconic BRIDGES building promised pomp and circumstance and maybe just a bit of peril. Not just anyone’s peril either, but that of real estate developer and philanthropist Henry Turley. He and his wife Lynne, who donated the funds to make the wall possible, would be rappelling 30 feet from the roof of the building.

BRIDGES initially approached Turley asking him for help towards their $10 million endowment drive. Turley demurred, saying, “We’d rather do something more fun.” Something more fun turned into the complete funding of the outdoor rock wall.

Cynthia Ham, president and CEO of BRIDGES, told the audience she had an initial lunch with Turley and when she mentioned the idea of an outside rock wall, “his eyes lit up.”

The wall is 30 feet tall by 40 feet wide, providing an additional 1,200 square feet of climbing space to complement the indoor rock wall and challenge course in the Wilson High Adventure Hall. The new course, which can accommodate seven to eight people at a time, offers three challenge elements: High Wild Woozy, Criss Cross Traverse, and The Plunger.

The walls are available as team building for corporate groups, school groups, faith groups, community groups, and family events, and are meant to help focus on communication, trust, leadership, problem solving, critical thinking, goal setting, teamwork, and time management.

Jim Boyd, past president of BRIDGES, was on hand to help dedicate the wall, saying, “Great things happen when you’re 10 feet off the ground — you learn how to handle fear when confronted with obstacles and challenges.”

The day was also an occasion to fete Marci Charles, vice president of Team BRIDGES, whose idea the wall was. Charles is moving to Austin, Texas, and was on hand to strap the Turleys into their harnesses and descend the wall herself.

“When Marci came up with the idea of an outside rock wall, it was just a no-brainer with the vision she’d had for BRIDGES,” said board chairman Richard McDuffie.

Boyd added, “Henry’s vision for this great city and Marci’s vision for this great wall came together.”

BRIDGES has raised $8 million towards a $10 million endowment for long-term support of operations.

The outdoor rock wall and challenge course will be open to the public for special climb nights. For more information, please visit www.bridgesusa.org.