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Two siblings are getting set to jump out of an aeroplane at 15,000ft to help raise vital funds for Ashgate Hospice – after the charity cared for their “heroic” firefighter dad at the end of his life.
Ryan and his big sister Fran Harrison will embark on the UK’s highest tandem skydive at Hibaldstow Airfield in Lincolnshire when they take the plunge on Sunday, 6th March – one of two dates to skydive with Ashgate this year, the other taking place on Saturday, 11th June.
The brother and sister duo will brave the breath-taking charity challenge in memory of their father, David Harrison, from Bradwell, who died in June 2020 after being diagnosed with lung cancer 18 months before.
David, originally from Sheffield, who worked as a firefighter at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue for 28 years, received “caring and compassionate” support in his own home from Ashgate’s Palliative Care Specialist Nurse Team.
On top of helping to manage his pain and visits from nurses to support the family in his final days, Ashgate organised vital equipment – like a specialist hospital bed – to be installed in David’s home to ensure he was as comfortable as possible.
Ryan and Fran are inviting fellow thrill seekers to join them in supporting Ashgate by taking part in the daredevil challenge, but they must be quick as registration for the March date closes on 6th February.
“Heights have always been my number one fear and ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with the idea of skydiving,” said Ryan, aged 38, from Sheffield, who also volunteers on Ashgate’s reception at its site in Old Brampton, Chesterfield.
“I never thought I’d get the courage up to do it though! When I saw the opportunity, I knew I had to have a challenge to start 2022 and to raise money for the hospice in memory of dad.
“When I mentioned it to my sister, she had felt the same about the idea of doing a skydive for the hospice – so it was a no brainer to do it together!
“The care dad received at Ashgate was very compassionate and caring, so to be able to do our bit to help support the hospice so it can be there for families in the future is really important to us as a family.”
David, who was a non-smoker, was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in 2019 and was told there was no cure, but he was offered treatment to try to help improve his quality of life and hopefully extend it.
Throughout 2019 he underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, both of which made him very unwell, before being referred to Ashgate for end of life care in January 2020. He died on 5th June that year, aged 72.
Ryan and Fran hope to raise £700 each to help fund Ashgate’s compassionate, end of life care for families across North Derbyshire.
Fran, 45, from Bradwell, added: “In his own jokey words, Dad was a “goddamn hero”! He had a heroic job which he loved and would do anything for anyone.
“He had a brilliantly dark sense of humour and always had many jokes up his sleeve. Looking after and spending time with his family was everything to Dad.
“We’re so grateful to Ashgate for everything they did for him and have done for us as a family. They always went above and beyond to make sure Dad was receiving the very best care possible.
“I remember there was one occasion where one of the doctors hand-delivered some new medication to our home as “it was more or less on her drive home”, but we’re sure she had to take a significant detour.
“It’s because of this amazing care that me and Ryan have made the bonkers decision to jump out of a plane in dad’s memory! Join us at Hibaldstow Airfield for an opportunity of a lifetime whilst helping support vital care for families like ours.”
Anyone who takes on the skydive will receive a t-shirt (if they’d like one), support and guidance from the Ashgate and Hibaldstow Skydiving teams and more. Each participant is asked to raise a minimum of £350 in sponsorship.
Savannah Redhead, Event Fundraiser at Ashgate Hospice, said: “Thanks so much to Fran and Ryan for choosing to fundraise for Ashgate this year in memory of their dad, David.
“It’s thanks to people like them that we’re able to continue caring for the patients and their families who need us.
“You can join Fran and Ryan at Hibaldstow Airfield and jump out of a plane at 15,000ft – whether you are an adrenaline junkie, needing to tick off your bucket list or just wanting to support your local hospice, this is the perfect opportunity.
“If this is the challenge for you head over to our website to find out more, but you better be quick; registrations for the March skydive close on 6th February. Don’t worry if you can’t make that date though, there’s a chance to skydive with us in June too. We hope to see you there!”
To make a donation to Fran and Ryan’s fundraising page click here.
Click here to find out more about how you can skydive for Ashgate Hospice.