It all started with a world record
On July 2, Georgetown resident Al Blaschke achieved a four-year goal, and personal dream, to skydive with his grandsons to celebrate their college graduation. Everyone landed safely and congratulated Al, who frequently tells inquisitive reporters, “I will not jump to jump; I want to jump to celebrate something!”
Incidentally, at 103 years, 174 days, he also officially broke the record as the world’s oldest tandem skydiver. Guinness receives about 1,000 applications every week and it takes time to certify witness accounts and details for each new attempt, but with Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody as an official witness, and 85 guests with cameras, Al’s entry is a sure thing.
One of the guests at the historic jump was Susan Snelson, an 85-year-old Sun City resident who decided she was ready to check skydiving off her bucket list. Like Al, Susan wanted her jump to have a purpose for others as well, so she decided to make her event a fundraiser for COVID support.
Susan asked her friend Betty, 76, who jumped with Al, to jump with her, and about organizations in need due to pandemic losses. After talking to some friends, Betty suggested donating the proceeds to the Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center (WCCAC).
The planes at Skydive Spaceland can accommodate seven tandem pairs, so Betty and her team recruited community leaders, from Liberty Hill to Taylor, to raise funds and awareness for this great need.
Ms. Snelson postponed her jump due to COVID concerns, but the fundraiser moved onward with Georgetown ISD Trustee Andy Webb, Taylor City Councilman Gerald Anderson, former Jarrell Mayor Wayne Cavalier, Esq., Liberty Hill Mayor Rick Hall, and Georgetown attorney and Mayoral candidate Josh Schroeder. The seventh jumper was not able to make it, but this writer is also on the WCCAC Board and they talked me into taking her place before I could talk myself out of it. (Anything for the kids!)
Skydive Spaceland provided a food truck for guests and donated a free tandem jump, which Betty auctioned off for additional funds raised.
GISD Board Trustee Andy Webb, in addition to conquering some anxiety about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, had a few profound thoughts on the day as well. “I have been thinking a lot about our schools. While we are trying to figure out how to safely reopen, one of the things that hurts me most is those children who need to be in school. School is where they get so much of their structure, love, support, and emotional and physical nourishment. Since we can’t be back on campus, this means an increased workload for the amazing folks at the Advocacy Center. It is an honor to be able to help them working together with good friends.”
Liberty Hill Mayor Rick Hall was second out the door and said, “Raising money for the WCCAC was as exciting as jumping from the plane.”
Attorney Josh Schroeder added, “One of my favorite things about this community, and Williamson County in general, is how people have adapted and found new ways to thrive, even during this difficult period. Our nonprofit community has been especially hard hit, but they aren’t giving up the fight. If we can’t have our normal fundraisers, we’ll find another way to fund our mission.”
At press time, Wings for Advocacy has raised just over $10,000, and some have already asked if they can jump in the “2nd Annual…” Thanks to the courage of the jumpers and generosity of our entire county community—pandemic or not—it may become an annual thing after all.
Helping the WCCAC
The WCCAC is a non-profit, collective organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of child abuse. It is a welcoming, child-friendly, and safe place for victims and their families. Victims receive medical treatment and counseling, work with law enforcement, and reduce emotional trauma for children and non-offending family members.
CEO Kerrie Stannell was delighted to have the unique, and rather spontaneous support from all over the county. When cities and counties shut down earlier this year, the Center was obliged to cancel public awareness events during National Child Abuse Prevention Month. They also had to cancel one, and modify another fundraiser plan in compliance with rules prohibiting large gatherings. These are just a few of the events the center depends on to fund programs and provide services to families throughout the year.
This year, due to changes put upon communities and homes by the COVID pandemic, research reveals child abuse cases are likely to increase dramatically. Sadly, when schools are closed, many children have no safe place to be away from their abusers, or to even reach out to trusted adults when the need arises.
During a shutdown, children may be at home with a physically or sexually abusive parent or caregiver; they may be left alone with someone a loving parent believes to be a safe, trusted adult, but is not. As well, children who are being abused, and are not in school, will not have a safe, trusted adult to disclose their abuse to.
While the jump was a success, the need goes on and WCCAC is accepting donations on their website; WilcoCAC.org. With the first day of school just weeks away, and no certainty as to what the nature of our school year might be, help for children is more important than ever.
Donations are accepted at WilcoCAC.org or made payable and mailed to WCCAC, 1811 Inner Loop, Georgetown, TX 78626.