Last Saturday, a group of quadriplegics and paraplegics left behind their wheelchairs and took flight.
A skydiving event sponsored by the Determined2Heal Foundation, allowed over two dozen people suffering from spinal cord injuries to experience mobility in Virginia Beach, VA.
The foundation, which works to “simplify the difficult transition into life with paralysis for injured persons and their support team, inspire and empower the paralysis community through valuable information and rehabilitative outings, and support paralysis-related research, technologies, projects and organizations,” organized the jump to give participants a chance to take on new challenges.
Hosted by iFLY Virginia Beach, the skydiving event was held in the facility’s wind tunnel, which allows divers to experience an indoor skydive.
“iFLY started in 1998 as SkyVenture, LLC. Once we had developed the technology to create a stable, wall-to-wall cushion of air in a flight chamber, we knew we could offer an incredibly realistic and safe indoor skydiving experience. We opened our first indoor skydiving facility in 1999. Between 1999 and 2005, we opened three more facilities. In 2005, we rebranded ourselves iFLY, maintaining SkyVenture as our design and manufacturing company,” says the company’s website.
iFLY has 65 locations in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.
Their patented wind tunnels produce wind speeds of more than 120 miles per hour.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever done,” said Jimmy Ludwick, 21, who participated in the first flight.
“I was afraid of the wind in my face, but I told myself that I’d been through a little bit worse, so I got it in the bag,” said one of the skydivers, who was involved in a car crash on Christmas Eve 2015.
“Here, we’re out of our chair, looking at the world in a different way,” said another participant who believed the experience would help change their view of paralysis.
The group’s goal is to inspire both able-bodied and disabled people to welcome new challenges and to view success as the desire and willingness to try.
Determined2heal Foundation was started in 2005 by Josh Basile and Tiffiny Carlson.
Josh has championed the spinal cord injury community since 2004 when a wave at Bethany Beach in Delaware slammed him into the ocean floor, leaving him paralyzed. He founded Determined2Heal ten months after the accident to attempt to ease the transition for those adjusting to paralysis as a result of spinal cord injuries. Since launching the foundation, Josh has graduated cum laude from undergraduate school and magna cum laude from law school. He now works as a trial attorney at Jack Olender and Associates in Washington DC, focusing on severe injury cases.
Tiffiny is also the Executive Director of SPINALpedia. Carlson, originally from Minnesota, is a C6 quadriplegic who has made it her life’s work to help others with spinal cord injuries. She is a SCI Life columnist for New Mobility magazine and the founder of the disability site, BeautyAbility.com. Her work has been featured in several nationally renowned magazines.
“Indoor skydiving is one of those adventures where you have an excuse to get out of your chair,” Basile said about Saturday’s event. “It also gives people a new perspective. That’s something that people want to be adventurous enough to give it a try.”
“I learned pretty quickly that sharing my story wasn’t enough. I wanted to provide a resource for people and a place where you have everybody united,” he added.