The smell of barbecue and the sense of community was strong in the air at The Southern Brewing Company as Extra Special People announced who had been selected to jump out of a plane.
The launch party, which was sponsored by was the beginning of the ninth annual Big Jump event, a fundraising event for ESP which will take place on May 11. Last year, the event raised over $110,000 to send kids to summer camp.
Seven high-profile members of the community were nominated as “celebrities” for the big jump and are drafted to skydive in order to raise money to send an ESP member to summer camp. Each celebrity is paired with an ESP member, called a “sidekick,” and supports them in their fundraising efforts.
The party had a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, with attendees chatting as people of all ages played a game of football outside the rustic aesthetic of the warehouse. Southern Brewing Company owners Rick and Lindsey Goddard are proponents of the event. Lindsey is even making the jump for the second year in a row.
The Southern Brewing Company and Chops & Hops sponsored the event, and there were people from both companies on the celebrities list.
The Goddards said they see the community come together to support ESP both at the event and before. To raise money last year, the Goddards held a “mac and cheese off,” to which 30 local restaurants submitted recipes.
“You get to watch people go up and … come down [skydive] and hear their experience,” Lindsey said. “It was really fun.”
ESP executive director Laura Whitaker said that the festival is a way for the community of ESP and the children themselves to cheer on their supporters.
“We have a bunch of our kids at the bottom and they all cheer on the people who jump, which is a really beautiful experience,” Whitaker said.
One of the selected celebrities, Logan Booker, produces a morning show for Cox Media Group WGAU. Booker found out about the event when Whitaker surprised him on air and asked him to jump. Booker said yes even though skydiving is one of his biggest fears.
Booker’s brother is a skydiving instructor and has taken both Booker’s wife and mother skydiving, but Booker himself always resisted, but he felt differently when he was asked by Whitaker.
“I can say no to a lot of things, but Extra Special People is one of those things that you cannot say no to because they are just so incredible,” Booker said.
During the event, each celebrity was paired with their sidekick. Every pair was visibly excited to be united, and each gave a personal address to the audience. Two of the eight celebrities couldn’t make the event, but their sidekicks still addressed the crowd with enthusiasm. Part of the selection speech was directed toward the celebrities to let them know the ESP community was behind them and that they had resources to help them in their fundraising efforts. Each pair is expected to raise $2,500 between the two of them before the big day.
Another celebrity, owner of the Cheeky Peach clothing store, Katie Jacobs has known Whitaker for years and is on the board for Java Joy. She will take her first plunge on May 11. She said she’s nervous about the jump, but excited to raise money and help as many people attend camp as she can.
“I’m competitive, so I really want to raise a lot of money,” Jacobs said.
Anyone from the community can sign up to be a jumper, and they usually get around 60 volunteers. Each jumper must raise a minimum of $600 to jump, and the money goes toward sending about 400 kids to summer camp. It costs $1,000 to send each kid to camp, but due to the Big Jump and the two other fundraisers, families don’t have to pay more than $250.
“If these kids can overcome all of the obstacles they have on a daily basis, then a simple fear of mine is nothing,” Booker said.
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