WATKINSVILLE, Ga. – More than 30 people will be jumping out of an airplane this weekend, and they are doing it for a great cause. It’s the third annual Jump, Fly, Be Different! Each jumper has to raise at least $600 for Watkinsville based, Extra Special People.
Last year, Good Day Atlanta told you about Matthew Dooley, who was born with cerebral palsy, jumping for the first time. This year, he’s at it again, but he won’t be the only member of his family taking the leap.
“I felt like my disability melted away,” said Matthew Dooley. That is how the 19-year-old described his experience last year when he fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams.
“It was the first time I felt like I didn’t have a disability, and that was probably one of the best feelings in the world,” said Matthew.
Those words had a huge impact on his well-known grandfather, University of Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley.
“Well, it’s special and it tugs at your heart a little bit when he says it’s the one time he feels like everybody else, and he is when he’s jumping out and flying in the air, there’s no difference. All of his challenges are gone at that time,” said Vince Dooley.
But for grandfather Vince, that is where his challenges begin.
“My grandfather said I’ll do it if your dad does it and my dad said I’ll do it if your grandfather does it,” said Matthew.
So as you might suspect, three generations of Dooley’s will be jumping out of a plane this weekend — Matthew, his father Daniel, and 80-year-old grandfather Vince — all in support of Matthew and one of his favorite places, Extra Special People in Watkinsville.
“He’s committed to it and now he’s roped his daddy and his granddaddy into jumping to promote ESP, so nothing I’d rather do better than support him,” said Vince.
Laura Whitaker, executive director of ESP, describes it as a place where people with developmental disabilities come to thrive. Their third annual Jump, Fly, Be Different! fundraiser this weekend is a perfect example.
“You have kids with developmental disabilities and people say they can jump out of an airplane and we say, why not? Yes they can, and Matthew is an example of that,” said Whitaker.
ESP best friends Suzanne Goossens and Hannah Baird say they do everything together and that included jumping out of an airplane!
“When I jumped out, my life has been changed,” said Goossens.
“I think it’s so cool to be able to see them experience life. Who cares about the Down syndrome, they’re two best friends jumping out of a plane living life to the fullest,” said Whitaker.
Then there’s Trey Akridge, who loves Superman, and on Saturday will finally get his chance to fly like him.
“I’m going to jump out of the plane and I’m going to change to Superman,” said Akridge.
Jump, Fly, Be Different! is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Monroe-Walton Airport. There will be free music including Mark Richt’s son, David, games for the kids, plane rides, food, a dunking booth, and 35 skydivers including Vince Dooley. The money raised will help send the kids to summer camp. For more information on the event, click here!