Inclement weather didn’t stop Extra Special People of Watkinsville’s seventh annual Big Jump event from flying past its $60,000 goal to raise $90,000.
The money will be used to send kids with special needs to summer camp.
“Today is about joy, making memories and building confidence. Big Jump really shows our campers that they can do anything,” said ESP Executive Director Laura Whitaker. “We’re helping them grow their confidence, and what better way to do that than by jumping out of a plane?”
More than 50 jumpers teamed up with as many community sponsors to raise the funds to offset the price of sending a child to an ESP summer camp, which can cost as much as $1,000 for one week.
“Our summer camps will be bigger than ever this year with about 300 campers. The money we raised today will go a long way towards easing the burden of sending a child to camp,” Whitaker said, adding that it can cost 10 times more over the years to raise a child with special needs.
In addition to members of the community, five ESP campers took the plunge as part of a celebrity team.
ESP Camper Kimi Gilbert and American Pest Control CEO Laurie Higginbotham, one of the teams, together raised more than $6,000 for the event.
“As a mother of a daughter with a learning disorder, I’ve always had a huge place in my heart for children with special needs,” Higginbotham said. “The work ESP does is fabulous, and I’m so happy to a part of it.”
Gilbert was ready to take the plunge.
“I’m just going for it,” Gilbert said. “I’m conquering a fear by jumping.”
Gilbert’s aunt, Kim Grubbs, added that she may have been more nervous than her niece for the jump, but she is incredibly thankful for what it represents.
“ESP is amazing,” she said. “Kimi used to be scared of almost everything, but after being with ESP for a few years, she’s jumping out of airplanes. This organization really is such a blessing.”
In addition to skydiving, the event also featured a festival with airplane and helicopter rides, arts and crafts, bounce houses, raffles and snacks for those in attendance.
”People thought we were crazy when we first proposed Big Jump,” said Allison Nealy, ESP’s special events chair. “But it’s a great way to raise money, build confidence in the kids and check something off of your bucket list while you’re at it.”