Add To Favorites In PHR
Residents leap from airplanes to raise money for area veterans
Old Colony Memorial - 9/21/2017
Veterans Agent Roxanne Whitbeck went to extreme heights to help fellow veterans recently. She returned rather rapidly.
The local veterans agent was one of several area residents who participated in Heidrea for Heroes' Second Annual Skydive Challenge.
Clipped to instructors, Whitbeck and nine others jumped out of an airplane flying 8,000 feet above Granland Airport in Hanson on Saturday, Sept. 9.
"It's all good when the doors are shut, but the minute the doors open, there's your reality check," Whitbeck said. "But it was awesome. You could see Boston, Provincetown, Nantucket. The instructor asked, 'How do you like my office.'"
A Navy veteran, Whitbeck had always wanted to try skydiving and leapt at the chance when Heidrea, a North Plymouth-based non-profit veterans organization, announced plans for its second annual challenge.
Whitbeck said Heidrea frequently helps her assist local veterans by building ramps, lifts and decks for those who return from service with special needs.
Like Whitbeck, Army veteran Ally Rodriguez never got the chance to jump from an airplane while she was in the service.
A Taunton resident who works as a veterans employment representative in North Plymouth, Rodriguez said the anticipation was worse than the actual jump when she followed Whitbeck out of the airplane.
Despite making worst case contingency plans with her husband, Rodriguez said she was surprisingly calm as the plane rose higher and higher. She had little time to worry once they reached jump altitude.
There was no stomach churning, just wind rushing past her face as Rodriguez and her instructor, Alex, dove for the earth. "Then the chute opened and it's quiet, so quiet, and just beautiful," Rodriguez said. "It was incredible. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but I don't think anything will ever be as exciting."
Participants in the challenge were expected to raise $1,000 for Heidrea for Heroes.
Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin O'Reilly raised the most donations - $4,500.
O'Reilly said he was in a meeting with Heidrea owner Jesse Brown not too long ago when Brown asked for his help.
O'Reilly agreed before learning it involved jumping out of an airplane, but decided to go ahead with the jump after consulting with his son, who flies helicopters for the Army.
"He told me he has friends who do it every weekend. I won't regret it," O'Reilly said.
Like Whitbeck, O'Reilly remembers not having much time to worry once the door opened.
"The next thing I know I'm flying through the sky and it was fantastic," O'Reilly said.
In addition to Whitbeck, Rodriquez and O'Reilly, five others area residents participated. They are Brian Faghan, a Kingston resident and owner of Long Pond Physical Therapy; Tony Baldwin, president of Baldwin Realty Group and current board chairman for the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce; Stephanie Clougherty, a Carver School Committee member and dedicated Girl Scout leader; Melissa Huggon, a Plymouth-based physical therapist for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and daughter of a Vietnam War veteran; and Lindsey Spencer, a Carver resident and new business place specialist for XS Brokers. Milton residents Cat Rogerson and Robin Putnam jumped as well.
Amy Belmore, managing director for Heidrea for Heroes, said the challenge raised $21,200, more than twice last year's $10,000 total. Belmore said Heidrea for Heroes is already planning for next year's third annual challenge. She anticipates a larger field, as several people have already expressed interest.
Anyone interested in next year's jump can call Krista Landry, Heidrea's associate director for outreach, at 774-773-3951.
Follow Rich Harbert on Twitter @richharbertOCM.