Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
Jump For the Rose - 11-13 October 2013, was ROSIELICIOUS! In its fourth year, JFTR is spearheaded by Marian Sparks – a breast cancer survivor – was designed as a way to give back. In 2009, Marian found herself with breast cancer, divorced, and without insurance. By luck she was steered to an organization in Houston, TX, called The Rose. All her medical needs were taken care of with expertise, grace and without any cost. She told her doctor, she would find a way to repay the group's kindness…
In 2010, Marian founded the non-profit organization, Jump for the Rose (JFTR). When Marian handed Dr Dixie Melillo, also the Medical Director and Co-Founder of The Rose, a check after her first skydiving fundraiser, the good doctor was floored. She had never expected Marian to follow through with that promise.'Dr Dixie' now makes the annual trek out to Spaceland to participate in the weekends’ activities and talk to the participants.
Because of her tireless activism, Marian’s name was submitted to the Susan G Komen foundation to be one of their 'survivor' representatives. Her beautiful face has now been featured in countless commercials and print ads. She has found her calling!
Each year JFTR meets at Skydive Spaceland, Texas, always with a different theme. This year it was designed as a mini-boogie with a variety of fun dives – head down, sit, belly and wing suit. Diane Chamberlain, Scott Elmer and Chuck Akers organized several high intensity, multiple point 12 to 15-way dives. Various cool wingsuit dives were organised by Michael Swearingen, current National Wingsuit Record Holder and leader of more wingsuit records than any other flyer in the world.
USPA Region Director and Freestyle Champion, Merriah Eakins flew in to orchestrate freefly dives and as a delegate of the Pink Mafia, she organized a Barbie dive, during which the four Barbies and their jumper/handlers did the 'hokey-pokey' square dance from 13,000’ (with wardrobe mishaps well documented by aerial cinematographer, Norman Kent).
A big part of this year’s theme was inclusivity: no girl left behind. In one of my favorite jumps, we invited novice jumper Nicole Ortiz, who had only 28 jumps, to join us on a 15-way multiple point dive. In the base between capable formation veterans, she became the central focus of the group. We formed a beautiful formation and everyone saw Nicole grin from ear to ear. It was a thrilling reward to help a new jumper achieve a milestone and join the fold!
A women’s Vertical Formation Skydiving 4-way head-up state record was set – Congratulations to participants Merriah Eakins, Katrina Shows, Nicole Black and Alex Neale! USPA Judges were on hand to certify the new Texas state record. 8 cancer survivors attended the boogie, the youngest participant was 18, and the oldest 75.
Jumps were made with teddy bears to be donated to children undergoing cancer treatment – 'a brave bear for a brave patient'. Everyone gifted and contributed their talents, time and energy to make this heartfelt event a big success. Skydive Spaceland locals set up a mobile kitchen and made authentic Cajun Gumbo in a big iron pot. Coordinating and emceeing the event were the core volunteers of JFTR, who set up a silent auction and raffle – featuring 100 items including an amazing skydiving t-shirt quilt, flat-screen TV & skydiving gear. Vendors of everything from American Indian medicine bags to chameleon purses donated proceeds. Over $10,000 was raised.
During the afternoon weather holds, two major indoor attractions were held. The multiple award winning film, Pink Skies, was screened followed by Questions and Answers. Then a breakout session on breast cancer prevention was run for the participants.
A light-hearted look behind the scenes of the HTF commercial, aerial sequences shot and directed by Norman Kent.
World renown aerial cinematographers, Norman Kent, gave a talk on several of his most noted projects including the recent HTC commercial. He also showed clips of his amazing skydive sequence in the film Get Smart and his awe inspiring aerial work with a falcon. Norman was also on hand all weekend to cover the aerial action – in an artistic way that belies his perfectionist eye. Spaceland's head videographer, Matt Sandt, provided additional camera.
In closing, JFTR founder, Marian Sparks remarked, “I have been a survivor all of my life, but recently, I had found something that truly made me feel alive. I have found my family, a place that I belong and my true love. That is what skydiving is for me. This cancer threat is never going to take that away!”
More lovely photos at: Norman Kent Jump for the Rose Gallery