We are a small community of skydivers who wish to give back to the world our passion and healing through skydiving. We all have the excitement of an unknown future and who better to appreciate this than cancer survivors having been faced with a new life -only here in the moment. As highly skilled instructors, videographers and ground support we aim to provide a life changing extreme experience while sharing our love for our sport.
Some of us have survived cancer and some of us have made the cancer journey with a loved one. Some of us have done both. We are here to help cancer survivors celebrate every day. We welcome survivors who have started life’s next journey and those who are seeking to join them. If you are not strong enough to join us in the air, then please join us on the ground. It is a fun event, and we encourage you to bring your family and friends.
How my fairy tale story has led to the creation of this nonprofit and experience
- edited by Rick Ford
This is a fairy tale; and like all fairy tales, it has highs, it has lows, and most important, it
has meaning. Once upon a time ... I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. My life plan
did not include becoming an advocate for people affected by cancer; but for many
people like me, life happens and you make the most of it.
While I was in college and 20 years old, I joined the Green Beret Sport Parachute club
at Ft. Bragg through my father's encouragement. He was a retired Sergeant Major and
pioneer skydiver during the early days of the sport that I love so much.
On Super Bowl weekend in 1996, I met Daniel Zacharias who was blazing a new trail in
our sport, skysurfing! We began dating and got married the following year. Dan and I
wanted a big family and soon after we were married, Danny Jr. was born, and then
Henry. We were well on the way to making our fairy tale come true … but four months
after Henry was born, Dan had a rough weekend in Virginia. He was working as a
skydiving instructor and was experiencing double vision. When he went to the doctor
and the news was not good, Dan had brain cancer, and a very difficult kind of brain
cancer called glioblastoma. This discovery led to many years of treatments, surgery,
radiation, and eventually, clinical trials. The Brain Tumor Center at Duke would remove
as much of the tumor as they could and then use cutting-edge treatments to go after
any cancer that remained.
Cancer can take away a lot of things, but we were determined that it would not take
away our fairy tale. Dan fought bravely. Sara was born in 2001 while Dan was in
treatment; Noelle was born in 2002. Our dream family had come together. All the
while, Dan continued to receive aggressive treatment. The tumor would grow back
about every 18 months, each time slightly more aggressive than the last time, and by
2010, Dan had stage 4 glioblastoma. Dan was amazingly brave and survived well
beyond expectations; but on October 20, 2011, Dan passed away.
Skydiving needed to take a back seat while I focused on raising my four children. Partly
because of Dan’s experience, I was diligent about keeping up with my healthcare, and
at 42 years of age in November 2014, I scheduled my first mammogram. Unbelievably,
the mammogram came back with a small mass. Another mammogram and an
ultrasound confirmed the mass was cancer. This spawned a full year of doctor
appointments, blood draws, surgery, and chemotherapy. I was lucky and I am now
cured of my cancer.
A lot has happened and sometimes we are too busy taking a journey to fully understand
it. In 2020, I was managing through the difficult circumstances of the COVID pandemic, and like many, I spent a lot of time in isolation. I was working from home as a
reservations agent for a major US airline and keeping up with my day job as a real
estate agent. During all of this, a close friend of mine and world champion skydiver, Joe Trinko, died suddenly from lymphoma. That is when everything came crashing down on
me. I went into a deep depression brought on by sorrow for so many things, my
husband Dan's death, and all the things that a fairy tale is supposed to have but
seemed to be slipping away. On Mother’s Day, at the request of my son, I went to
Skydive Paraclete in Raeford, my original home drop zone where my dad had
encouraged me to start in the sport. I made my first jump in a long time, and upon
landing, I felt incredible healing and relief from the darkness. This skydive for me
created a feeling like a giant weight was lifted from my heart.
Days later, the idea came to me, crystal clear, that I wanted to create a pathway for
other cancer survivors to engage and reengage in life. I wanted to offer other cancer
survivors an opportunity to celebrate and live on the edge. There is no one who better
understands the gift of each day than someone who is surviving cancer, or has
conquered cancer, and is living life. Survivors know that there is no tomorrow and only
right here right now is guaranteed. I want to bring together highly trained and giving
skydiving instructors, videographers, and ground crew to share in our love of skydiving
with survivors and their families!