Passersby in the Union Square area of San Francisco today and Saturday may notice an odd sight overhead. It’s not a bird, or a plane – it’s Special Olympics supporters, who will be rappelling down the side of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

The rappelling fundraiser is popular across the country, but this is the first time Over the Edge, the company that organizes the event, has partnered with a nonprofit in Northern California to host it in the area, said Kirsten Cherry, spokeswoman for Special Olympics Northern California.

“We’re excited that we are going to be the first to do it,” Cherry said.

Participants are required to raise a minimum of $1,000 for Special Olympics Northern California, which offers free training for 12 different sports year-round.

The organization has taken a hard hit from the economic downturn, and it takes about $500 per year per athlete to provide uniforms, equipment and training opportunities, Cherry said.

But the program doesn’t just prepare athletes for sports competitions.

“This is a training for life program,” she said.

Cherry said they already have 90 people signed up to rappel on Saturday. There are still a few slots available for anyone who wants to contribute $1,000 to the cause, Cherry said.

It takes anywhere from five to 15 minutes to travel the 400 feet and 38 stories down from the Hyatt roof to the ground. Special Olympics athletes will greet those rappelling when they get to the bottom, Cherry said.

One Special Olympics athlete, 25-year-old Tony Massa, will be participating in the rappelling Saturday, she said.

Rappelling will begin at 1 p.m. today and 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at 345 Stockton St. The repelling activities will be followed by a celebration where participants will talk about their experience rappelling.

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