Skydiving event offers veterans that adrenaline rush

ORANGE — Jonathan Gosselin, board member of 22Kill New England, had never jumped out of a plane before — until he took his first leap about 13,500 feet above Orange on Saturday.

As part of 22Kill New England’s third annual veterans skydiving event, Gosselin, along with 76 other participants, soared throughout the sky after jumping out of the plane they were traveling in.

“When I fell, it was an adrenaline rush and an incredible sense of euphoria,” said Gosselin.

Two days after the jump, he said he’s already booked his second skydiving adventure at Jumptown and is still smiling from the experience.

An organization that raises awareness around veteran suicide induced by post-traumatic stress, 22Kill New England hosts the skydiving event at Jumptown to bring adrenaline back into veterans’ lives, said 22Kill New England’s Program and Events Director Allan Katz.

22Kill New England is the regional chapter of the national organization 22Kill. The name derives from a 2012 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data report that indicated an average of 22 veterans and active military members die by suicide each day.

“This event is important, because all this is, is an adrenaline rush — anyone suffering from PTSD, or those who have a physical disability, it gives them a new outlook on life,” he said.

The day went as smoothly as possible, said Katz, with about 48 new jumpers who joined in the fun this year. When 22Kill New England first hosted the event in 2016, 30 participants took their first leap, while last year 40 jumpers attended.

“The event is getting bigger — there is more camaraderie,” said Katz.

Jumptown Manager Kevin Drivas said the event allows veterans who would otherwise not be able to afford the jump to participate. 22Kill New England pays for 22 veterans to jump, and hopes in coming years to increase the number. Jumptown plans to create a veterans skydiving club, said Drivas, to bring the veteran community together throughout the year.

“We are trying to get more people with the same history to come out and jump together,” he said.

Jason Cox, a member of the board of volunteers for 22Kill New England, also experienced his first jump this past Saturday. While preparing himself for the jump in the plane, Cox said he could see the Quabbin Reservoir, lakes and trees all across the North Quabbin area. He said the rush of jumping out of the plane is similar to that of partaking in combat.

“It was a sensation of rushing through wind,” he said.

Moving forward, Katz said 22Kill New England hopes to host the event over a two-day period, with 150 participants skydiving throughout the weekend. Gosselin praised the organization for bringing veterans together each year to jump, along with hosting other events throughout the year.

“When my PTSD got worse, 22Kill and all of its supporters taught me that you do have a family, and you do have people to reach out to,” he said.

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