Over The Edge: Meet Our Celebrity Rappellers

Nicholas Schmidt
Owner/Operator, Old Soul Brewing
U.S. Army Veteran, Afghanistan and Iraq
Four Army Commendation medals, Combat Action badge, Task Force Commendation medal


Raised in Lehigh Acres Florida, Nicholas Schmidt left for the U.S. Army in 2006.

After completing Basic Training at Fort Leonard wood and AIT at Goodfellow AFB, Nick was assigned to 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) at Fort Hood Texas. In 2008 he found himself in Kunar Province, Afghanistan working a counter insurgency mission in the Korengal Valley; close to the Pakistan border.

After over 15 months in Afghanistan, Nick was heading home with four Army Commendation medals, and a Combat Action Badge.

Upon redeployment to Fort Hood, Nick was reassigned to the 743rd Military Intelligence Battalion at Buckley AFB Colorado. Then attached to 5th Special Forces Group for a quick 1 year trip to Tikrit Iraq, in order to support the collection management and counter insurgency mission in all of northern Iraq.

Returning to Denver Colorado with Combined Joint Task Force Commendation Medal in 2011, Nick continued to work his mission at Buckley AFB, and plan his exit from the Army in order to open a brewery in his home town in Florida.

Old Soul Brewing is a family/veteran owned brewery in Central Fort Myers, and has just celebrated their 2nd Anniversary. “I couldn’t be more thankful for the never ending support I receive from the community, my family, and my friends. I couldn’t have done it without them.” Nick and Old Soul support Miles of Smiles Foundation/Miles Ranch  a local non-profit that provides equine-assisted therapy to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For upcoming events follow Old Soul and Miles of Smiles Foundation on Facebook.

Honorary Chair
Ron Agypt, 2015 Top Fundraiser, Heights Center Volunteer

Ron and his wife Kim retired two years ago to Southwest Florida. Since then, they have become advocates for The Heights Foundation and The Heights Center, donating their time, efforts and financial support.

Ron and Kim volunteer with approximately 100 at-risk children in an after school program at The Heights Center in Harlem Heights. Harlem Heights is an impoverished area of Fort Myers with a poverty rate for children more than twice the county average. Their goal is to change the trajectory of their lives. Kim volunteers as an afterschool tutor three days a week and Ron volunteers with the kids in sports programs two days a week.
Despite his fears, Ron went “Over The Edge” in 2015 and was one of the top fundraisers. He hesitated to participate this year, but “couldn’t let the kids down.”

“It is so rewarding to see these children change the way they think, which in turn has started to change the entire community,” said Ron. “We see it as an opportunity to help a child, help a family, help a block, and help an entire community – starting with the children.”

Honorary Chair
Dede D’Arcy, 2015 #1 Fundraiser

dede-darcy-over-the-edge-2Thanks to the generosity of her friends and family, Dede was our top fundraiser last year. She says that the thrill of the leap is nothing compared to the thrill of helping children from the Harlem Heights area. Dede and her husband are residents of Shell Point Village and they consider Harlem Heights their backyard. She thinks it would be absolutely incredible if she could match last year’s, or even increase, the amount raised for the children.
Dede and her husband Bro moved to Sanibel in 1991 from an organic produce farm in Northern Illinois with their two High School age boys. It was an adventure in teen age angst.

She volunteered with Habitat for Humanity with her best friend from Sanibel and they won Volunteers of the Year in 1994. They were construction “bosses” for two Women’s Builds. It was an adventure in personalities.

Dede has been an active volunteer in all the communities where they’ve lived, from cooking chili for 500 people for an arts tour in Riverwoods, Illinois to making coleslaw grown and harvested from the farm for 500 people for our church Harvest Days festival in Richmond, Illinois. It was an adventure in the culinary arts.
She is an active volunteer for P.E.O., (Philanthropic Educational Organization), a 250,000 member women’s group founded in 1869 that promotes education for women through scholarships, grants and loans. It is an adventure in learning.

Dede and her husband, Bro, and sold their Sanibel home and lived aboard our boat for two years. They spent summers in the Minneapolis area and winters wherever it was warm and sunny. It was an adventure on the water.

Her family is her number one priority followed by most anything that will help people oriented causes. Dede has found an adventurous mind, an open heart and a willingness to throw herself into any endeavor helps not only the cause, but me. She believes the more effort you expend, the more benefits everyone gains.

Gina Birch
Award-Winning Radio & TV Personality
radio-2-fbGina carries the rare title of “Native Floridian”. Living in Southwest Florida for 22 years, she is a well-known, award winning radio and TV personality.

Besides brandishing a microphone, Gina is good with a camera and computer, publishing a restaurant guide for Lee County called FLAVOR.

Gina writes about food and wine for The News-Press, Grandeur magazine and Times of the Islands Media publications.

Gina is a self-proclaimed Oenophile, traveling to wine regions all over the world to sip what she calls “the nectar of the Gods.” When not in the vineyards she loves to explore beautiful beaches and new restaurants.

You can find her musings in her blog “The Birch Beat” 

Peter Busch
NBC-2 Anchor
peter-buschPeter Busch is a multiple EMMY award winning journalist who anchors NBC2 News at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11pm.

He won three consecutive Emmy Awards for General Assignment News Reporting. Solid writing, finding the human angle of every story and a composition of visually creative live reports has become the hallmark of his reporting style.

Peter joined NBC2 from Phoenix, AZ where he worked as a reporter and anchor at KPHO for 6 years. The focus of his career has been covering politics including traveling to the New Hampshire for the 2008 primary and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN.

During his time in Arizona he also provided in depth coverage on the immigration issue and the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Peter also worked as a reporter for KVOA-TV in Tucson. He was sent to cover Hurricane Katrina as well as other major national stories during his time in Tucson.

He learned to speak fluent Spanish when he lived in Mexico City in 1999. Peter then went on to graduate with honors from the University of Arizona.

He now lives in Lee County with his wife Rachel, their three daughters, and their dog Anheuser.

Representative Heather Fitzenhagen
Florida House of Representatives

heather-fitzenhagenHeather Fitzenhagen is a second term Florida State Representative for District 78 in Lee County. With deep roots in the Fort Myers community, she has been a District 78 resident for more than two decades and currently resides in Lee County with son, Alexander Deboest and daughter, Olivia Deboest.

Heather is originally from Dallas, Texas, graduated from Hollins University with a BA in political science and remains on the Hollins University Alumnae Board. She earned her J.D. from Nova Southeastern University Law School. She is a member of the Florida State Bar Association and affiliated with the Morgan & Morgan law firm. Representative Fitzenhagen’s experience in the financial sector as VP for AIG has established her strength as an all-around business leader.

She currently serves as Chairperson of the Florida Legislative Women’s Caucus and as Southern Representative on the Executive Board of Women’s Legislative Network. She serves on the advisory boards for PACE Center for Girls, the Fort Myers Women’s Community Club, the Lee County Association of Women Lawyers and the Golisano Children’s Hospital Initiative.

She is the Florida State Representative for District 78 in Lee County, where she serves on the Economic Affairs Committee, Business & Professions Subcommittee, Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Rulemaking Oversight & Repeal Subcommittee.

Jason Gunter
jason-gunter-over-the-edgeJason was born in Terrell, Texas in 1965 and moved to Matlacha, Florida with his family in 1971. His family still has a home in the small fishing town. When not helping working as a labor and employment law attorney, Jason spends much of his time training for triathlons in Southwest Florida.

Jason, a double amputee, is a three-time Ironman triathlon finisher, has competed in more than 20 triathlons, including the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii (2009) and the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, FL (2010) and Las Vegas, NV (2011). Jason has been featured on national television and recognized in newspapers and magazines. Jason is an avid cyclist and runner and he enjoys spending his spare time running and cycling with Southwest Florida groups.

Prior to attending law school, Jason worked as a firefighter for the Cape Coral Fire Department and was an active member of the IAFF Local 2424. In 1993, he was named Firefighter of the Year for the State of Florida.

Jeff Harvey
American Ninja Warrior
jeff-harveyJeff Harvey grew up in Fort Myers and is now working as a Client Partner for an IT research and consulting company.

Two years ago in college he started training to compete on American Ninja Warrior. He built his own obstacle course in his family warehouse and competed this past season in American Ninja Warrior 8. He got up the warped wall and completed the qualifying round. He then advanced to the City Finals but fell at the salmon ladder just barely missing the opportunity to compete in the National Finals in Las Vegas.
He continues to train with local Ninja Warrior competitors. Besides Ninja Warrior, life has been keeping him pretty busy getting ready to marry the love of his life at the end of the year, buying his first house, serving at his church, and of course enjoying life and being grateful for every breath he takes!

Cindy McCurry-Ross
Executive Editor, Vice President Content – The News-Press
cindy-mccurry-rossCindy McCurry-Ross returned in early 2015 to paradise, and to The News-Press as executive editor and vice president of content. Earlier this year, she was named Florida editor for the USA TODAY NETWORK, which includes the Naples Daily News. She is in the 28th year of her career with the network. Eighteen of those years have been in various positions at The News-Press, where she started as a business reporter in 1988.

She has served as editor of The (Salinas) Californian and the Gainesville (GA) Times. Before returning to Fort Myers last year, she had been executive editor at The Daily Advertiser of Lafayette, LA, and regional editor for Gannett Louisiana and before that, she was an executive with Gannett Co. Inc.’s corporate news team.

She is a graduate of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. She is passionate about the First Amendment, community journalism and the role of free speech and press in our democracy.

She loves Southwest Florida for all that is unique about our paradise – the evening skies, the gators, the beaches the eclectic mix of Midwestern and northeastern transplants and native Floridians, local restaurants that serve grouper or anything mango – even hurricanes if they’re not much stronger than a Cat 1.

Cindy is married to husband James, who is retired; she has a daughter who is a physical therapy student at the Medical University of South Carolina and a black lab named Pepper.

Kathy Rairden
Lee County Sheriff – Patrol Commander

kathy_rairdenMajor Kathryn Rairden was born and raised in Naples, Florida where she is a graduate of Naples High School and Edison State College. Major Rairden started her law enforcement career with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in November of 1993 assigned to Road Patrol.

She most recently served as the Delta District Commander after spending time in Road Patrol, Criminal Investigations, Narcotics Investigations, Sex Crimes Investigations and Internal Affairs. Over the years she has risen through the ranks to her current position as Patrol Major.