One would think someone willing to dangle from a rope atop an 18-story building on the state capitol skyline would have a vast knowledge of rappelling.

Not so, said Dr. Steven B. Heird, president and owner of Advanced Vein and Laser Center in York Township.

Heird and others on Saturday will rappel the Fulton Bank Building at Third and Locust streets in Harrisburg to raise money for Gaudenzia, a nonprofit that provides treatment for those with drug and alcohol addictions and mental illnesses in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

Cindy Heath, a patient of Heird's who lost a son to addiction five years ago, introduced Heird to Gaudenzia and the event.

"Her husband participated last year and she thought it would be a good trip for me," Heird said. "It's coming up on the anniversary of her son's death, so I'm doing the rappel to honor him."

Heird not only was touched by addiction through Heath's son, but once struggled with it himself.

"I am in recovery . . . and grateful that I am," he said. "Addiction is such a huge disease, but it's poorly recognized. There is a stigma with drug and alcohol addiction that doesn't come with food and nicotine."

Drug, alcohol, food and nicotine addictions are among the most common addictions in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heird said he hoped the event would help people recognize that addiction and alcoholism are diseases that should be identified and treated and that addicts and their loved ones can reach out to organizations like Gaudenzia for help.

While Heird doesn't have much background in rappelling -- he learned most of what he knows about the activity in the past three weeks -- he said he's confident.

In the past, Heird participated in events for other nonprofits, including a summit of Mt. Shasta in California for "Climb Against the Odds" which supports the Breast Cancer Fund.

That event required Heird to do rigorous climbing and use crampons and belays. But that doesn't necessarily directly translate to rappelling a building.

Dr. Elizabeth Carter, a chiropractor in the Philadelphia area with whom Heird shares an interest in wellness and integrated medicine, suggested Heird get at least a little practice before Saturday.

"I shared with her that I was going to be rappelling off a building in Harrisburg and she said 'You need to have some experience with that,' " Heird said. "She is a close friend of David Roland, owner of Philadelphia Rock Gym, who was kind enough to teach me how to rappel."

Roland and his wife, Paige, traveled to Chickies Rock Park in Lancaster County three weeks ago to give Heird a crash course.

"I'm ready, I learned from the best, quickly," he said. "And I am living proof that one can rise to -- or jump off -- new heights."

To donate

Dr. Steven B. Heird hopes to raise at least $3,000 for Saturday's event. Donations can be made online at or by sending a check, payable to Steven B. Heird, to 191 Leader Heights Road, York, Pa., 17402.

Proceeds benefit Gaudenzia, which provides drug and alcohol treatment for more than 17,000 people each year Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.

In central Pennsylvania, Gaudenzia operates 23 programs including detox, residential and outpatient services. According to its website,, residential programs in the region treat about 2,000 people annually.

If you go

Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Heird and other fundraisers will rappel the Fulton Bank Building at Third and Locust streets in Harrisburg for the "Over the Edge Overcoming Obstacles" fundraiser.

Potential participants still can register for the event, but a fundraising minimum is required. For more information, visit and click "registration."

About Heird

Dr. Steven B. Heird is president and owner of Advanced Vein and Laser Center, 191 Leaders Heights Road, York Township.

Heird, a vascular surgeon originally from Carroll County, Md., moved to York County to complete a five-year surgical residency at York Hospital in 1984.

He opened Advanced Vein and Laser Center in 2007. His office can be reached by calling 717-741-2214.