This 90-Year-Old Skydiver Is Free Falling for a Cause

Jumping For A Cause

Paul Robitaille’s 60-year-old son Peter is autistic, and for almost half his life he’s been living in a group home for people living with autism run by the Greystone Program. “He has been with them for over 30 years in one of their homes, and they do a wonderful job with him,” Robitaille says.

Among the many things they do to support Autism awareness, the annual “Leap For Autism” fundraiser is one of the most unique: a group of volunteers jump out of a plane to raise money for the community. The year of his 88th birthday, Robitaille and his family went down to support the cause and observe the daring skydivers — but something else happened that day.

“I saw these people after coming down from their flight, and after they landed, they just seemed to be so exuberant,” he says. “They were smiling and kidding around with each other and I was impressed with that.”

On the spot, he made up his mind. This was something he wanted to do.

“I said to myself, ‘it can’t be that bad.’ The way these people were acting it seemed like a lot of fun. I told my daughter. ‘I think I can do that.’ And I changed from an observer to a participant and I jumped two years ago.”

In the two years since, he’s jumped at each Leap For Autism. This was a true surprise to him, since he thought his first jump would be his last. “It wasn’t until I talked to Paula and Brian [his daughter and son-in-law] that I concluded that maybe it’d be a good reason to raise money,” he said. “That was my motivation to get back into it.”

By reaching out to his neighbors, writing letters to his exercise class and even tapping his physicians, he raised over $6,000.

 

Before The Dive

Skydiving is an impressive feat for someone of any age, but especially for someone who’s afraid of heights.

“When I say I’m afraid of heights, if I have to paint something on the second floor of my home, I’m very very unhappy on that ladder,” he says. “Even 30, 40 feet up, that small height.”

And while being in airplanes doesn’t scare him, it’s the moment right before the jump he says is the most difficult.

Hanging Up His Goggles

As much as he loves skydiving, this past April was his last jump.

“I paid a small price for the jump,” he says. “I had a bloody nose. The change in air pressure must’ve broken a blood vessel in my nose channel and I had a minor problem with my back for a few days, but that’s not the real reason why I say it’s my last jump. I made up my mind that this year would be my last.”

He still plans to support however he can and has no regrets about his past three years jumping. Luckily, his last jump was the most perfect one yet.

“It was a beautiful day,” he says. “It was warm. It was crystal clear. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There was no wind. The plane was very smooth. The circumstances for the jump were perfect.”

To anyone too hesitant to take the leap for themselves, he says there are several things more intimidating than skydiving, listing zip lining and bungee jumping as two such activities.

But, if that’s not enough reason to try skydiving — or anything new for that matter — there is one other reason: adventure.

“You can think of it as an adventure,” he says. “Think about it as an adventure and also a chance to get a view of the world you’d never see any other way.”

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