Birmingham man urges public to follow his skydiving lead
A 20-year-old disabled man from Birmingham, who undertook a 10,000ft charity skydive to raise over £5,500 for a specialist sports wheelchair for a Welsh student, is urging others to follow his lead and sign up for a jump taking place on Saturday 9th May, 2020, at Tilstock Airfield, in Shropshire.
Owen Johnson, from Moseley, has cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition that affects his movement and coordination. When he was five years old he was unable to walk so his parents contacted Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.
The charity agreed to fund a therapy that helps to improve the mobility of people with motor disorders and by the age of seven Owen was able to walk.
When Owen turned 20, last year, he pledged to pay back his debt of gratitude to Caudwell Children, and he registered for a charity skydive at Tilstock in order to raise vital funds for the organisation.
Caudwell Children, is looking to secure participants for this year’s skydive as part of its #Team20 celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the charity’s foundation.
Throughout 2020 the charity is encouraging people to engage with it in a number of ways, like taking part in a fundraising event or challenge, volunteering for the charity, or raising awareness of the charity’s services, in order to join their #Team20.
Having seen that Caudwell Children had launched a pubic fundraising appeal to raise the money needed to buy 18-year-old Harry Thomas, from Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire, a sports wheelchair, Owen made the decision to try and cover the cost of the chair.
“I’m passionate in my support of Caudwell Children after they helped me as a child,” explained Owen. “I wanted to see how my fundraising could directly affect a young disabled person like myself, so when I found out about Harry’s appeal I was delighted to lend my support.”
Using his extensive list of contacts, including the likes of former TOWIE star Gemma Collins, and Dawn Ward, star of ITVBe’s The Real Housewives of Cheshire, Owen set about promoting his Just Giving page.
“I attended Dawn’s annual Crème de le Crème fundraising Ball to promote my challenge,” enthused Owen. “During the event she let me take to the stage to address the crowd so that I could tell them what I was doing and this led to a good number of donations.”
Owen promoted his challenge heavily online through his Facebook page and when he completed the jump in September 2019, he was delighted to have raised in access of the £5,574 needed to pay for the sports wheelchair.
“If my fundraising can play a part in Harry achieving success on the tennis court I’ll be extremely happy as I believe every person, irrespective of their ability, should be given the opportunity to participate in sport,” said Owen. “Now I want others to register for this year’s programme of skydives which take place at a number of locations across the UK.”
Harry was delighted when Owen contacted him to tell him that he had raised the money for the wheelchair.
“I was gobsmacked when I got a call from Owen!” exclaimed Harry, who is studying sports analysis at Cardiff Metropolitan University. “The money that Owen has donated will cover the full cost of the wheelchair and will enable me to continue playing the game that I love.”
Harry, who has spina bifida, a condition that restricts his ability to walk and stand for long periods of time, has been playing wheelchair tennis since becoming an undergraduate last year.
He trains twice a week at the David Lloyd centre in Cardiff and the sport has helped him to keep fit and make new friends.
“Each session is two hours long and they are really beginning to improve my technique and understanding of the game,” explained Harry. “However, I currently have to borrow a wheelchair from the club, which is far from ideal.
“Using a chair that hasn’t been set up for me specifically makes it more difficult to use and I’m at a disadvantage to the other players.”
Harry was advised by Caudwell Children that the specialist sports wheelchair that would best suit his needs would cost £5,574.
“Obviously this is way outside my student budget,” exclaimed Harry. “But now, thanks to Owen’s donation I’m looking to develop my playing skills.
“I love the game so much that over the summer last year I travelled the one hour and 45-minute journey from my family home in Pembrokshire to continue training.
“I’m determined to become the best that I can be at the sport but without a chair of my own I would have been unable to do this.”
The specialist equipment will improve his agility and speed on court and take him to the next level in terms of performance.
Kate Sherwin, from Caudwell Children, is urging others to follow Owen’s example. As she explained: “Our charity skydives are not for the faint-hearted and the challenge will see participants climbing to 10,000ft before they are launched into the abyss, strapped to a tandem instructor.
“You then hurtle towards earth at over 120 miles per hour and you can’t begin to imagine the adrenalin rush you experience falling through space at that rate of knots.
“Owen described it to me as a once in a lifetime experience and I know that it’s something that thrill seekers and adrenalin junkies relish.
“The skydive will raise vital funds for the disabled children that we support so I would urge people to register.”
Registration is £50 with a fundraising target of £395.
To find out more and to register for the Skydive Challenge visit the website here.