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Falling for the Hospice of St Francis - No fear, just fun!

Ruth McAndrew Sky Dive 1 (Subhome page max width)I was one of the lucky people who took up the challenge to raise funds for the Hospice by skydiving on 15th September 2012 and what a brilliant day it was. I managed to raise more than the £400 required through the generosity of friends and family and looked forward to the day with total excitement; why would I be nervous? I’d fancied doing a parachute jump for some time so when I saw this event advertised in the spring newsletter, I couldn’t resist! I wanted to do something for the Hospice as they support a close friend of mine.

In my head, I went through the jump many times - from exiting the plane to landing. I couldn’t wait to experience the 45 seconds of freefall but wasn’t really looking forward to the transition when the parachute opened, thinking it would be a huge stress on my body. The final four and a half minutes would then be a beautifully controlled descent back to the Hinton Skydiving Centre in Northampton.

My husband and I arrived early and I was made to feel very welcome by the Hospice staff. My sister and her husband drove across from Peterborough to support me. The sky was brilliant blue and the warm September sun shone brightly on us all. We stood and watched the small plane take off again and again, followed by the numerous tandem teams returning to the same patch of mown grass in front of us; smiles on their faces and high on adrenaline.

Eventually it was my turn to put on the jumpsuit and harness and I was given a short briefing with a group of first time skydivers - just the dos and don’ts really! The final instruction was to scream if you want to go faster! I was then introduced to my instructor Chris and we walked off towards the plane. A few necessary questions passed between us and I learned he’d been skydiving for 12 years and mine was his sixth jump that day! I told myself I was just the deadweight he was carrying, but knew that our lives would be at risk if I did anything stupid. I chose to have the jump recorded on DVD as a birthday treat and for my future enjoyment.

The plane took about 15 minutes to climb to 13,000 feet. When the small rear doorway opened, 4 weekend solo skydivers poured out first. We shuffled along the bench seat, strapped together extremely tightly at this stage. Ben the camera man stood at the open doorway to catch the moment of launch whilst I sat on the floor of the plane, with my legs tucked below me outside the plane, holding the shoulder straps of my harness tightly and putting my head back, as instructed.

Ruth McAndrew Sky Dive 2 (Subhome page max width)Before I had an opportunity to think about it, we were out, tumbling for about a second and a half until we stabilised. As arranged, Chris tapped me on the shoulder and I spread my arms in classic freefall pose. This was awesome; travelling at what I am told was about 120mph. Strangely, this was not a sensation of ‘falling out of control’ but one of feeling cushioned by the air below - with Ben, also freefalling, filming a few metres from my face!

When Chris released the parachute, our speed reduced reasonably gently as it filled with air. Descending vertically now, he offered me a yellow strap to hold in each hand, suggesting I pulled the right one down first. This swung us into a corkscrew turn to the right. I then did similar with my left, swinging us round the other way. This was superb! He took the straps back from me and guided us around and down to the same patch of grass we’d watched the others land on. With my legs lifted in front of me, as instructed, we landed safely and I lowered my feet to the ground. I felt amazing! Seconds later, he detached me from his harness and I walked away to the cheers of my family.

Ruth McAndrew Sky Dive 3 (Subhome page max width)I get a buzz every time I recount this story. I had complete confidence in my instructor and was delighted to have been given such a wonderful opportunity.

After all, this really was a ‘win-win’ situation - for me and for the Hospice. I’d like to offer a huge thank you to Sarah Ajder for lining up such an amazing day. By the way, the DVD is superb!

There is another Skydiving day is on Saturday 20th September 2014 - if you’re interested! I get a buzz every time I recount this story. I had complete confidence in my instructor and was delighted to have been given such a wonderful opportunity.

Ruth McAndrew

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