[IN YOUR WORDS] In Memory of our Dad

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This article is part of the [In Your Words] series. These are real stories, written by real people, who have made a tandem skydive at Chicagoland Skydiving Center. Our goal is to shine light on the many reasons people choose to jump out of perfectly good airplanes. Want to share your story? Email us!

Growing up, my dad always talked about how he was taking each of his kids skydiving when they turned eighteen. He was so excited to share this extraordinary experience with the people he loved most. Unfortunately, my siblings and I didn’t grow up quick enough to have that experience with him. After battling cancer for several years, my dad passed away in 2013.

IMG_1072.jpegFast-forward to Christmas 2015. That was the year my mom gave me an unforgettable gift. My siblings and I all received gift certificates to go skydiving! We couldn't believe we were really going to be able to honor our Dad's wish. Kayla, Jake, Bradley, and I were going to have an awesome adventure.

June of 2016 came and we made our way to Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle for our first jump. We met with our instructors and began gearing up. Next thing I knew, we were boarding the plane and beginning our climb to 14,000 feet.

I felt oddly calm as my instructor and I waddled our way to the open door. The wind went whipping by as I stared into the open sky. Suddenly we were tipping forward and plummeting towards the earth. There was a split second when I thought “What the ?!@& am I doing?!” But then I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and a sense of happiness overwhelmed me.

As my instructor and I flew the parachute back to the ground, I couldn’t help but smile as I took in the beauty of the world from up above. In comparison to the loud rush of air in my ears during freefall, the quietness of being under the parachute was dream-like. That time really made me think about my dad. He would have loved jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

I know he was with me from beginning to end during that experience, smiling ear to ear. While the freefall was amazing, the canopy ride is a very different emotional experience. It was beneath the parachute that I knew this experience had been the perfect way for us kids to honor our dad.

While I originally thought my skydive was going to be a one-time thing, I knew I was wrong the moment my feet touched the ground. Life felt different, I had a new point of view. I can't explain it, but I knew I had found my new hobby.

An Unexpected New Journey

During my first skydive, I felt truly happy for the first time in nearly eight years. My friends and family even saw a difference. It gave me a reason to enjoy life.

I immediately fell in love with and became passionate about skydiving. I realized that it is okay to be afraid of new experiences, but that I can’t let fear hold me back. I can’t let opportunities pass me by because I am afraid of taking that step into the unknown. Is life really worth living if you don’t take some risks and do what truly makes the fire within your soul burn?

A few weeks after my first tandem jump, I signed up for Freefall University, the solo skydiving training program at CSC. I began the pursuit of my "A-License" with further training tandems, ground school, and the first few levels of AFF.

Jumping the first time without my instructor attached to my back was intimidating.  I pushed through my nerves and continued to progress through as many levels as I could before summer ended. With my crazy work schedule, I wasn't able to fully complete the program, but I'm excited to get back to jumping this summer.

While tandem jumps are a lot of fun, the feeling of having complete freedom and control during a solo jump is incredible. It's really the "next level" of the experience. Skydiving has helped me become more confident in myself in all parts of my life. After earning my license, I’m hoping to travel to different drop zones all over the world and continue my skydiving education. Plus, it seems like a really beautiful way to see the world, and share the view with my Dad.


Kristen Acton

Kristen Acton

Kristen lives in Stillman Valley, Illinois. When she isn't working for Barnes & Noble, she spends her weekends volunteering at Heartland Community Church - and of course- skydiving!

Topics: Tandem, In Your Words