Dave’s Second Skydive for Our Hospice

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Dave’s wife, Sheila, died at our hospice six years ago after being diagnosed with pancreatic and lung cancer. After receiving bereavement support from our team, Dave began fundraising for us as a way to give back to those that supported him and Sheila, and to ensure that we could continue to provide care for those who needed us.

At 81 years old, Dave completed his first skydive in aid of our hospice and now at 84 years old, he’s undertaking his second. Here, he shares the story of his incredible fundraising efforts and the motivations behind them.

“My wife died just over six years ago now. Initially, she was sent to Guildford Hospital and medically they were great, but it felt a little bit like Waterloo Station as it was very busy there. Getting Sheila into the hospice was such a positive experience – the people were so kind and caring and it was a very tranquil place.

After she died, I also had counselling with the Patient and Family Support Team which I think was done very well. I’ve kept in touch with the hospice ever since.

Fundraising gave me a sense of purpose.                   

I started fundraising and doing what I could for the hospice after that – I support a Jazz Band that organised an event which raised about £1,000, and I arranged another event myself with a group of folk singers which raised a further £800. I’ve also been to different runs, like Run Reigate, to cheer on other supporters.

St Catherine’s do so much for so many people and I really like to show my appreciation for that. Plus, fundraising really helped to give me a sense of purpose after Sheila died – particularly during lockdown.

I did my first skydive in 2018 and managed to raise over £1,500.

My first skydive was wonderful. The freefall is pretty scary as you’ve got no sense of orientation and the noise of the wind really wakes you up, but once the canopy opens up it’s the most tranquil thing. The instructor actually offered for me to take the controls or to do lots of quick turns, but I declined and just asked that he make the experience last as long as possible.

We were the first jumpers out of the plane, but the second to last getting to the ground, so that should give you an idea of how long we took coming down.

The instructor said that he’s done over 1600 jumps, but that mine was definitely in the top 100 for him. Everything went right, we had brilliant conditions and I think he just knew that I enjoyed it.

I’m hoping that my second jump will be just as good.

There were hundreds of supporters the first time.

The only downside of my first skydive was that it happened to be on the day of Headcorn air show. I was already nervous and then I arrived to see big banners everywhere and lots of cars in the car park. I felt quite negative as I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the jump, but I was reassured by the instructor that it would still happen when the air show finished at 4pm.

It was a really enjoyable air show actually, and it meant that there were hundreds of supporters there watching me. It should be much quieter this time, but I think I’ll actually prefer that.

It’s definitely not for everyone; once you’ve done it the adrenaline is running pretty high. I remember that one of my sons who came up to see me had to take me for a cup of tea before I drove home to calm me down! A friend is taking me this time.

I haven’t done much to prepare.

I can walk a little, and I can cycle, but I just generally try to keep myself fit – Sheila and I were always active. We used to go ballroom and sequence dancing and got up to silver medal standard. I actually think it really helped Sheila’s physical strength and helped to keep her active for far longer than specialists originally thought.

If Sheila were here now, she’d tell me I’m ‘a daft old bugger’ – but I know she’d be so supportive.

It’s definitely been hard raising money this year with the lack of contact thanks to the pandemic, but I get so much support from one of my sons and his family. I know that my friends from my clubs will support me too.

Unwinding is important after the adrenaline rush.

After my skydive, I’m going to stay with a friend in Dorset for a week. It’ll be really nice to relax and recover.

I also do watercolour painting – anything from landscapes and scenes, to animals and more technical pieces like aircrafts and boats. I was a draftsman, so I’ve always had an eye for drawing and as I got near to retirement my wife said that I should take up painting… so I did.

Some of my pictures get turned into cards, and I think I’ve got really quite good at it now. It’s certainly kept me interested throughout lockdown!”

If you’d like to support Dave’s skydive and donate to our hospice visit: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/dave-rose5