Belfast Telegraph

Ballycastle mum of children with poor vision urges daredevils to skydive in aid of RNIB charity

Gillian Kennedy in free fall over Co Antrim
Gillian Kennedy in free fall over Co Antrim
Gillian Kennedy after landing

By David Young

Ever wondered what it's like to fly like a bird?

Ballycastle woman Gillian Kennedy reckons that skydiving is the closest you'll ever come to it in this life.

That's why she's encouraging daredevils with a head for heights to sign up for the Royal National Institute of Blind People's Big Jump charity skydive on September 21 after receiving support from their Children, Young People and Families Service.

Gillian's two oldest children Rebecca (10) and Ben (9) both have low vision due to optic atrophy.

Mum Gillian took the leap at Aghadowey last year after receiving advice and support from the RNIB's Children, Young People and Families Service - and she is now calling for other high flyers to take the opportunity for an unforgettable experience this year.

"I'd always wanted to skydive - but was never brave enough," she said.

"When Ben's eyesight took a big fall two years ago, the consultant gave us an RNIB leaflet of services which might be available to us.

"I got in touch with RNIB and we ended up going on one of their family weekends.

"It was amazing being able to meet and talk with other families in a similar situation, to share any concerns, and get tips and advice on things like getting the best support in school.

"The kids have also taken part in other activities, such as a go karting day.

"It gives them the freedom to try new things in a safe way and for us to relax when we know everyone's in the same boat and the staff have everything in hand.

"I wanted to give something back, so when I heard about the skydive, I thought: 'Right, this is the time, I'm going to go for it'."

She recalled her feelings as the little aeroplane powered its way into the skies over north Antrim.

"It's such a whirlwind of emotions. I remember my heart beating on the way up in the plane and sitting there ready to jump. I was nervous, I was scared, excited.

"If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a bird, that's the closest you're going to get!"

Gillian said she had been overwhelmed by the generosity she's experienced.

"People were so generous in the fundraising.

"I raised around £1,400 just through my JustGiving page and the generosity of friends, family and customers of our business, Kennedy Hydraulics.

"I put a poster on the back of Ian's work van and some customers even gave us £100.

"I was overwhelmed and so thankful to raise such a sum to a charity so close to our hearts."

Hazel Stirling, area fundraising manager, said: "Right now, RNIB can only reach one in three families who needs us most.

"By taking part in the 2019 Big Jump, you'll be part of a team of RNIB skydivers taking to the skies over the same weekend and making the leap to support people with sight loss.

"We will be jumping 'en masse' on September 21 and 22 across the UK.

"Everyone will jump with a trained instructor, and together, we can help smash through the barriers that stop people with sight loss thriving."

For more information, visit rnib.org.uk/TheBigJump.

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