Oliver Hammond could have found easier ways to raise money for mesothelioma research, but none of them would have created this kind of enthusiasm.
He will jump out of an airplane — at 12,000 feet.
Hammond has been looking for a way to help fight malignant pleural mesothelioma ever since watching his girlfriend’s grandfather die of the disease in 2011, another victim of occupational exposure to asbestos.
Since then, ideas came and left without much happening — until his instincts took hold. The idea of skydiving caught, and kept, his attention.
“I’ve never done this before, but I love a good adrenalin rush. I love going fast. And I love doing new things. So this sounded perfect,” Hammond said. “I even talked my best friend into doing it with me. He’ll be so nervous, he’ll probably crap himself.”
Hammond, 19, is a college student studying history in Canterbury, England, where he was born and raised. His boyhood friend is Charlie West, 20, who is scared of heights, but prepared to make the plunge, too, because the cause is good.
They will be jumping April 6, at the Headcorn Airfield in Kent, England. They are encouraging friends to come watch the jump, and strongly encouraging anyone they come across to pledge a donation that will be split between the Mesothelioma UK Charitable Trust and Sebastian’s Action Trust.
Mesothelioma UK is a non-profit organization formed in 2008 that raises funds to support patients and families affected by mesothelioma. One of its goals is funding a specialized care program in the United Kingdom that trains nurses to handle mesothelioma patients. Another goal is research.
Sebastians’s Action Trust specializes in caring for terminally ill children, and it includes a facility where the children and their families go for help and also for entertainment.
“They are great charities, good causes that Charlie and I both felt strongly about,” Hammond said. “Sometimes, there is a stigma about people of our age, that we don’t care about doing good. We want to help change that. I just think it’s vital for young people to do these kind of things for worthwhile causes. We’ve tried real hard to spread the word to all our friends.”
They have a website that makes it easy for anyone to pledge to the cause. One of the donors also left a note that made the two laugh. “Try not to die,” she said, knowing they never have jumped before. Another said: “Good luck lads. Hope you raise a ton of cash.”
They each will be skydiving in tandem with an experienced instructor, which is required for an inexperienced diver. They already have paid for their skydiving adventure, making sure that all funds donated will go directly to the charities.
As a history student, Hammond has been particularly interested in the history of asbestos, which is the primary cause of mesothelioma cancer. Asbestos was used extensively in the U.K. through much of the 20th century.
Hammond also has been in touch with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (MARF), which is based in the Washington, D.C. area and is experienced in raising funds for research.
At the MARF symposium in Las Vegas earlier this month, there was a session directly related to grass-roots fundraising that has become so critical to raising awareness in this country. Families in the past have done things like organizing bike races, road races, poker games, potluck dinners, wine tasting events, and even soccer games.
Rarely has there been much mention of jumping from a plane.
“My mom was totally against it. She’s not going to come. She doesn’t even want to know the exact date,” Hammonds said. “That’s one reason why I had to wait until I was 18 to do this, because she never would have signed for me. I just hope Charlie makes it through. It will be fun. And it’s surely for a good cause.”
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