On Friday, June 21, Seven Hills Skydivers of Madison, Wisconsin, which is located in Marshall, and veterans’ organization 4th HOOAH (Helping Out Our American Heroes) held the 5th Annual Freedom Freefall event in conjunction with the club’s Head to the Hills Boogie. Freedom Freefall started in 2015 in Omro, Wisconsin, to give veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder a way of coping through skydiving and to reduce the number of veterans who commit suicide from the current average of 20 a day. The event moved to Seven Hills in 2017, and the drop zone has hosted it annually ever since.
This year, 23 veterans took to the skies out of a Cessna Grand Caravan from Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois, that pilot Andrew Goodwin flew in for the event. 4th HOOAH funded tandem skydives, as well as video, for the veterans. The video flyers included Russ Haas, Keith Jones, Amanda Kubik, Dewey Morrison, Jim Osterman (founder of Veterans Skydive 4 Life) and Brian Torkelson, and Kari De Witt-Olk and Tricia Van Handel helped with editing. The tandem instructors included Haas, Shawn Hartlaub, Leon Kunesh, Mike Petri and Andy Van Handel, and an incredible packing staff kept them in the air. Samantha Berry, Linda Haas and Beth Morrison adeptly handled manifest duties.
Madison’s News Channel 3000 (News 2 Now) reporter Jamie Perez covered the event for the local TV audience. She was so impressed that she made a tandem jump herself the next day and now understands first-hand how therapeutic skydiving can be for veterans. In the five years of Freedom Freefall, 120 veterans have taken to the air. Skydiving has made a difference in their lives, and some have remarked that the experience has made coping with PTSD much easier.
Each year the event grows and helps more veterans. Tammy Hardwick, president of 4th HOOAH, was very pleased with this year’s event and is ready to start planning next year’s. Seven Hills will again be the event host. Information about Freedom Freefall is available at sevenhillsskydivers.org and hooahwi.org.
Andy Van Handel | D-24545
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