Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 10 September 2010 00:00
Rick Collins, a Westbury resident and attorney in Mineola, brought his “Leap for Life” idea from a local, one-man jump in 2009 to a 75 person skydiving weekend throughout North America in support of Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG Foundation.
“I did it last year as a solo effort and then I thought, ‘If I can raise 15 grand for an important cause on my own, let me get others involved and raise a lot more money,’” said Collins, whose daughter, Lauren, and family friends leaped alongside him.
Collins said he didn’t think skydiving for charity would become an annual event, but with so much positive feedback and funds raised for cancer – over $47,000 in two years – he said he had no choice but to oblige.
“The vast majority of folks both local here on Long Island and nationally, as expressed through Facebook, are saying that it was an incredible experience and they absolutely loved it and want to go again,
“Everybody loves it and they’re looking to meet and organize it again for next year. The jury’s out on that but I’m leaning toward doing it because I had a great time doing it and it was so much fun to do it with people I know and have that shared experience,” said Collins.
Much like the other participants, Collins’ daughter Lauren, a 19-year-old sophomore studying theater arts at SUNY Cortland, didn’t take much convincing to sign up.
“I hadn’t pushed her at all and she had toyed with the idea … but I didn’t take her seriously … two days before the jump she said she was actually doing it. To the great consternation of my wife, she joined me and I wasn’t going to stop her,” said Collins.
“It would be hypocritical for me to talk her out of it … it’s an empowering thing to do and maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” he added.
Collins had just one dive under his belt from 2009, but that number increased exponentially in 2010.
“The way it worked out was I had guys from my gym as well as my mother’s friend, who is 70 years old, and my cousin and my daughter … I wanted to go up with all of them, problem was that [the plane] wasn’t big enough to carry them all,” said Collins.
“I went up with my daughter, a cousin and my mother’s friend, came down, grabbed a new parachute, jumped back on the next plane and joined my gym buddies,” he said.
On that second jump, Collins observed a new side of an old friend.
“It was great to see their faces … one of my gym buddies, his face was white with terror,” said Collins, adding, “and then of course he lands and said he couldn’t wait to do it again.”
Collins also mentioned that video of his descent is available on Youtube (search “Rick Collins 2010 skydive”) and that the 2010 Global Leap for Life helped many show their support in the fight against cancer.
“So many people have said, ‘I’m doing this because my mom had ovarian cancer,’ or, ‘My father had lung cancer,’ and there were even people who have family members who are battling cancer or who are in advanced stages of cancer. It gives it so much more meaning.
“It’s so gratifying and humbling for me to feel that I’ve played some part in a legacy that will go on and hopefully make a difference. I’ve told people that the donation you make may someday save the life of someone you know or love,” he said.
Collins’ next possible venture may have him headed in the opposite direction: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“That’s on my list, whether I would do that as a charity event or simply as a way of bringing my sense of empowerment to new heights, pun intended, that remains to be seen,” Collins said.
Whether the 2011 event is a Leap for Life or a Climb for Cancer, Collins has extended the invitation to all Westbury residents.
“I would love if anybody is interested in becoming part of this event in the future, I’d love them to contact me and let me know,” said Collins.