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Falling To Support
February 22, 2003

We would like to thank Rufus #7 and Ruby #4 for participating in our event. We have been very busy organizing a record skydiving event in Homestead, FL. The goal was to put together as many skydivers as possible together in freefall while performing a predetermined formation. The jumpers have about 45 seconds from the time they exit the airplane until they break-away to open their parachutes. These jumpers have an experience level from a couple hundred jumps to thousands of jumps.

Rufus's training began on the day of his arrival. He was fitted for a custom-made jumpsuit. This suit is designed to help Rufus fall at the right speed. The grippers on the sleeves and legs give the other skydivers a way to better hold on to him.After the jumpsuit fitting, Rufus started his AFF training. AFF stands for Accelerated Free Fall and is one of the ways skydivers learn to skydive.

Rufus turned out to be a great student. He listened to every word the instructor had to say, and never questioned anything he was told to do. It was apparent from the start that Rufus was going to make a great skydiver. His ground school lasted a whole day, and he was ready for his first jump.

Rufus boarded Skydive Miami's Caravan aircraft with his AFF instructors. The plane climbed to 12,500 ft for his first jump. He looked a little nervous, but he stayed calm. Rufus didn't say much on the ascent, but then most first-time jumpers don't.

After about 20 minutes of climbing, the airplane turned onto jump run, and the door opened. Rufus gave his paw up sign, as he was taught in ground school, to indicate that he was ready to jump. He made his way to the door with his two instructors. After the "Ready, set, go!" out he went. As soon as Rufus went through the door of the airplane, he was hit with a 70-mile per hour wind. This wind tried to flip Rufus over, but he stretched into the arch that he had been trained to do. He remained in a stable position as he accelerated to terminal velocity of 120 miles per hour.

During the free fall, Rufus had to perform his learned maneuvers under the watchful eye of his instructors. He did every maneuver perfectly. At four thousand feet he pulled his ripcord and floated to the earth. His first jump went great, and Rufus finished the program without so much as a whimper.

We were so impressed with Rufus' performance and dedication, that we assigned him a slot in the base for the record attempt. The base is the foundation and is made up of a number of skydivers that form the center of the whole formation. The base has to be completed perfectly before the record attempt. This attempt consists of four jumpers leaving together, and the other jumpers dive out individually to fly to their assigned slots.

Rufus and Scott Webb, the organizer, had a little talk before the record jumps started. Scott, like Rufus, is diabetic and has been since he was 9 years old. Scott is an expert skydiver and holds a D license with over 200 jumps. Scott's advice was to carefully monitor his blood sugar just before getting on the plane by checking his blood and making any adjustments needed. While on the plane, if anything did not feel right, he would not jump, and would ride the plane back down. Rufus again understood every word, and never questioned any of it.

The event started at 8 am with the arrival and registration of the skydivers. After registration, the skydivers got together to "dirt dive." Dirt diving is a rehearsal on the ground of what the skydivers are going to do once they exit the airplane. They use this practice to work out problems and traffic to their slot in the formation. Rufus was again always on time and ready to dirt dive, except once. He was over visiting with some kids by the balloon canopy and had to be summoned with the traditional dirt dive invite. This is where all the skydivers yell his name all at once. It's a little embarrassing. Once it happens to you, you're never late to the dirt dive again.

At 10 am everyone stopped what they were doing for the opening ceremony. Mike Belle jumped carrying the American Flag while the National Anthem was sung by Marilyn Webb (Scott's Mom).

As soon as Mike landed, the formation suited up for the first attempt at the DZ (Drop Zone) record. The jump went great, but like most record attempts it didn't happen on the first jump. There are always little things that need to be worked out to get everything perfect. Although, I have to admit, Rufus did a great job and was right where he was supposed to be.You could tell he was serious about skydiving and remembered everything he had been taught. I think if he had the desire and trained some more, he could compete at the national level in no time.

We had five jumps to make the record. As each jump progressed, we got closer and closer to getting all 18 skydivers hooked up. On our third jump we ran into a small problem. One of the engines on the airplane shut down while we were at 7,000 ft. That was not high enough to do our formation and we could not go any higher with just one engine. We decided to jump out and let the pilots land the plane. We continued jumping with the other plane they had at the airport.

The event was going well with food being cooked by Paul Horton from Philly. He prepared hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn-on-the-cob. There were auctions and raffles for things that had been donated. People over 18 years old were making tandem skydives. Ruby decided that she would do a tandem to show her support. A tandem is when you ride with an instructor strapped to your back and he has a big parachute that you both share. Ruby closed her eyes for the jump, but opened them to see the view from 12,000 ft. The instructor brought them down for a stand up landing. At 3:30 the door prize of a free tandem was given away, and the winner made the jump at 4:00 pm.

We had a lot of fun skydiving, raised over three thousand dollars for JDRF, and met a lot of new people. The best part is we raised a lot of money to be used to find a cure for Rufus and everyone else that has Juvenile Diabetes now or may be diagnosed in the future.

I want to thank Rufus and Ruby for coming to Homestead, FL and helping out with this event. They did a great job and are awesome skydivers.

Rufus #7 with Tom Webb

Ruby #4 with Marilyn Webb

Getting ready to head up

Bailing out

The group forms up

Mike Belle jumped carrying the American Flag

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Copyright Notice:
Rufus and Ruby, the bears with diabetes, is the creation of Carol Cramer, who owns the copyright to Rufus and Ruby. The graphics of Rufus are from Rufus Come Home, written by Kim Gosselin and illustrated by Terry Ravenelli, and are used by permission of the author.

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Last Updated: Thursday April 10, 2003 10:22:12
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