Former Hess Corporation CEO Ray Stafford considers himself a conservative guy, and “never dreamed” of jumping out of a plane until he found himself thousands of feet in the air in October 2012, free falling to help fellow Lakeview Village residents.
Stafford, Lakeview Village President and CEO Jamie Frazier and three additional residents jumped from a plane in Fall 2012, all to raise money for the Good Samaritan Fund, a fund established to assist Lakeview residents who can no longer afford the full cost of care, through no fault of their own; the fund provides residents with security in knowing that their needs will be met.
In 2012, the jumpers raised more than $13,000 for the Good Samaritan Fund, and in 2013, hope to raise $25,000. In order to do this, residents are out collecting donations, and are looking for at least 12 jumpers to participate in the Oct. 12 jump. Those who jumped last year ranged in age from 78 to 95.
“It’s pretty rare to see a group like this come out,” said Chris Hall, owner and operator of Skydive Kansas City in Orange, Mo., where Lakeview residents will jump this year, and where they jumped last year.
Jamie Frazier, Lakeview Village president and CEO, who plans to jump again this year, added, “Our oldest jumper was 95 last year, and we’ve already had a 90 year old sign up for this year’s jump, which goes to prove that age doesn’t equal vitality. I know of no other retirement community in the nation where several residents have not only jumped together, but have jumped for a great cause–to help one another.”
The jump is performed tandem-style, which means that participants are strapped to a professional jumper (who has to clock more than 500 jumps over three years in order to be a tandem skydive instructor). There is a free fall for 40 to 70 seconds at speeds of 120 to 150 mph, followed by a five- to seven-minute parachute flight, in which jumpers glide over the landscape.
Stafford said that he found comfort in knowing that the tandem jumpers were required to have a lot of experience in skydiving, and that the parachutes are professionally packed by an FAA-certified rigger. He said that there was a 90-minute orientation process, during which the instructors detailed the jump, and prepared jumpers for their flight.
Hall said that most of his instructors have more than 1,000 jumps under their belt, and place safety as their top priority.
In order to jump, participants fill out forms, and have to pass a physical evaluation where they are tested to see if they can raise their feet (for the landing) and work their back into an arch (for the free fall). Participants must be able to move with the instructor off of the plane; Hall said that they have reconfigured the seating arrangement on the plane that should help make the exit easier for seniors.
“I’ve never met a person who jumped out of an airplane in my 22 years who has said, ‘That was a really bad idea,’” said Hall, who says skydiving is almost always in the Top 10 list of amazing experiences people reflect upon. “They’re going to be reliving their youth in a very unique way on that day, and they’ll never forget that moment, and that’s true for a 19 year old or a 90 year old.”
If skydiving is on your bucket list, here is your opportunity to check it off. Mr. Stafford said that it was a good experience for a good cause.
“I felt good about it. It went pretty fast. It was nice,” said Stafford, who would have jumped again this year if he hadn’t been experiencing some health issues. He will be cheering on jumpers from the ground this year.
Interested residents will be jumping out of a Beechcraft King airplane around 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 12 at Skydive Kansas City, 1413 North Orange in Butler, Mo.
Donations for the Good Samaritan Fund can be dropped off at the Heritage Reception Desk, with checks made out to the “Lakeview Village Foundation,” with “Skydive/GSF” in the memo line. Checks can be sent to Lakeview Village, at 9100 Park St. Lenexa, KS 66215.
To view a video from last year’s jump, click here.
If you are interested in joining us on the jump, call resident and Team Captain Paul Walter at 816-223-6349