Tales from the Bonfire - Making It Happen

by Trevor Cedar | D-29578
New Smyrna Beach, Florida

April 23, 2012
Jump #4,161
Skydive DeLand, Florida

TALESBONFIRE201301On my way to work on a Friday, I was listening to my favorite morning radio show. Nick Vujicic, who was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs, was being interviewed. He spoke about how he was bullied in school as a child growing up in Australia. Depressed, he wanted to commit suicide, but he didn’t want to bring more sadness to his parents. So he made the decision that he was going to live and do everything he wanted to do, regardless of his disability. He’s now a motivational speaker and author.

As I listened, I kept thinking about how cool it would be to take him on a tandem skydive. Then it happened: The interviewers asked him what he wanted to do next, and he said he would like to skydive. Without any hesitation, I called in and told them that I would take him! Shortly afterward, they announced on the radio that Nick would be jumping at Skydive DeLand on Tuesday. I hung up the phone and was feeling really good about it until it hit me: How is he going to fit safely into a harness? Is he really going to be able to jump? How am I going to fix this?

I just couldn’t call back and tell him he couldn’t skydive because of his disability, so I knew I needed to get help to make it happen. I only had until Tuesday, so I needed to figure it out quickly. If anyone could help me it was legendary gear designer Bill Booth, but I didn’t know him. I saw him around because I’m in DeLand, where his company, United Parachute Technologies, is located. However, I certainly didn’t know him well enough to call him. But that’s exactly what I did.

When I learned that he was away for the weekend, I pretty much begged his secretary to contact him and tell him it was an emergency. To my surprise, Bill returned my call and listened to my explanation of the situation. The task was challenging, since his company was closed for the weekend and they would only have a day to create a custom harness for the Tuesday jump. Bill said it could be done, but it meant I had to make sure Nick was there on Monday to get measured.

Nick was on tour and speaking at several churches in the Orlando area, but he worked the detour into his busy schedule. At UPT on Monday, Mark Procos and Daniel Blignaut took Nick’s measurements and worked tirelessly to create the custom harness for use the next day. In the meantime, I spoke to my bosses at Skydive DeLand, Bob Hallet and Mike Johnston, and they got on board with the plan and were ready to accommodate the jump.

On Tuesday, a big crowd—folks from UPT and Skydive DeLand, family, friends and even some television crews—came to the drop zone for the jump. As Nick’s tandem instructor, I was excited and nervous... probably more nervous than he was. However, I knew that the success of this skydive would help others and that the knowledge we gained could be used for other events at DeLand, such as the Wounded Warrior Project weekend. Nick’s wife and his caretaker also decided to make tandem jumps that day. In the plane, the atmosphere was typical of all tandem skydives, with the instructors making lots of jokes to try to calm the students down and keep it fun.

Videographer Brian Festi filmed us as we jumped from the Skyvan. The freefall went very well. Under canopy, Nick expressed how amazing it was and how happy he felt. With the large crowd watching as we approached the landing area, I felt pressure to land on my feet in the peas. As soon as I did, the cameras surrounded us, and the crowd began to applaud Nick’s achievement. It was awesome.

As a tandem instructor, I enjoy being able to share my love for skydiving with others. I love teaching AFF and watching my students become skydivers. Being able to make Nick’s dream of skydiving a reality was a very rewarding experience because so many people worked together, making me realize how amazing our community is. This is what tandem skydiving is all about, bringing the world of freefall and parachuting to any and all.


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