If you plan to be in or near Memphis Tennessee this weekend, you should hop over to Whiteville – about 40 miles east – for some real entertainment. It’s the West Tennessee Sisters in Skydiving Boogie, happening today through Sunday.
Need we mention the perfect scene for Mother’s Day? All the proceeds of this event will benefit the Foundation for Women’s Cancer.
Cancer survivor and third grade teacher Elizabeth Young hosts the second annual event, along with some help from her former third grade student, Allen Dupont, now a grown man and director of institutional effectiveness at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Dupont is also a recent skydiving convert.
Dupont is a welcome minority in the crowd, along with the other male patrons and participants as the boogie is geared toward women.
“Sisters in Skydiving is a foundation that brings the females together to support each other in skydiving because it’s a heavily male-dominated sport,” Young said. “Last year, the event turned out much bigger than I expected. We had 64 ladies come out from 20-plus different states, and we raised nearly $3,000.”
Currently, there are 70 women registered from 17 different states for this year’s benefit.
Ladies will enjoy half-priced jumps and become eligible for prizes among good food and camaraderie surrounding the event that will bring skydivers from all over the country to West Tennessee Skydiving, a skydiving training school about an hour east of Memphis, where the event is held.
Young has been skydiving for three years and earned her instructor rating in December.
“I never saw it as something I would be doing, and then I had a friend talk me into going skydiving, just to go do a tandem jump,” Young said. “I ended up doing three tandems that day, and I was hooked and wanted to go back and do it myself.”
Young sees the event as a kind of way of giving back after she was diagnosed with a very rare form of cervical cancer two years ago. “It’s actually so rare that there are less than 30 cases reported worldwide, and as far as I know mine was the only one that was found in Stage 1,” she said.
She alternates check ups between The West Clinic and MD Anderson Cancer Center every four months, now the tumor has been removed and she was not required to have additional treatments.
Young has two children, 10 and 14, that have both practiced tandem jumps. “One of them cannot wait until she’s old enough to go back and get her license, but the other one’s not so sure if he wants to or not,” Young said.
Instructors require seven levels of skydiving training – three levels that require two instructors and four levels that require just one instructor – and of course, coached jumps that will teach the mandatory maneuvers used to form formations with other skydivers. Skydivers must learn to control the parachute once it is deployed as well as landing techniques.
“Going out the door that first 10 to 15 times, it’s a bit surreal because you are standing in the open door of an airplane at 14,500 feet and the winds howling by, you’re just thinking, ‘What am I about to do? This is insane,’” said Young. “Once you get up to 120 mpg, it doesn’t feel like falling anymore. It’s more like floating or being suspended somehow. It’s just a great feeling of freedom maneuvering around. It’s a lot of fun.”
Allen Dupont chose West Tennessee Skydiving for instruction, completing his first tandem jump in July. He loved it and quickly proceeded through ground training, instructor partnered jumps, coached dives and a written exam.
“I’ve always been interested in aviation in general,” Dupont said. “I was an airplane nut as a kid. Then in college I thought that I should go skydiving, but there were always reasons not to go. Now I’ve reached an age where I thought about all of those things I wanted to do, and I figured I better get started on that list if I wanted to finish.”
He received his Class A license in late October after completing 26 jumps which now allows him to jump with small and large groups or alone. He has completed more than 63 jumps coming into this weekend’s event.
The second annual Tennessee Sisters in Skydiving Boogie features helicopter jumps, inverted biplane jumps and there’s wind of jumps from a hot air balloon.