Nancy Reyer and her son, Michael Hubbard, had always planned to go skydiving on his 18th birthday.
Michael turned 18 on Saturday, and while he and his mom couldn’t skydive, they found a way to still complete their goal at Skydive Long Island.
“We decided to turn it into a fundraiser,” Ms. Reyer said.
She had hoped to jump Saturday, but she said her doctor vetoed the idea.
Enter Jerry Halpin, the pastor of the North Shore Christian Church on Kroemer Avenue in Riverhead.
Mr. Halpin was Ms. Reyer’s next-door neighbor when an exploding gel candle accident injured Michael in 2011. Ms. Reyer said he saved Michael’s life by spraying him with a fire extinguisher before the burns could worsen.
On Saturday, Mr. Halpin was there again for Michael, as he literally jumped out of a plane in a tandem skydive jump to raise awareness and more than $1,500 for Brendan House, a group home under development on Sound Avenue that will one day serve as Michael’s new residence when it is completed.
A Medford organization called New Beginnings Community Center is building Brendan House, which is expected to open in the fall.
Mr. Halpin said he wasn’t nervous, even after the recent fatality July 30, the first-ever at the Calverton site.
“I promised Nancy and [her sister] Fran [Johnson] that I would do it,” Mr. Halpin said. “I love it and Michael is my buddy.”
Mr. Halpin started a GoFundMe account to raise money for Brendan House under the heading “Throw Jerry out of a plane.”
As of Saturday’s jump, it had raised $1,066 and Mr. Halpin said his church raised about $500 more.
He wrote the names of all his sponsors on his arms and hands and read them out loud into the video camera that recorded his fall.
And he wasn’t alone in jumping.
Also jumping were Rebecca Van Houten and Michael Curtis, who are friends of Michael’s; Kris Smalls, Michael’s nephew; Kathleen Shea, whose son Spencer also suffered a serious injury several years ago and who has been friends with Ms. Reyer; and Jude Losee, a friend who also happens to work at SkyDive Long Island, as an accountant.
“It was amazing,” Mr. Halpin said of his first-ever jump. “I would recommend it to anyone.”
Ms. Losee, who made her third jump, describe it as “dropping about 160 feet real fast, and then when the parachute goes out, it’s just beautiful. You go way up and then it’s really peaceful. And you can see everything, the Long Island Sound, Connnecticut, Gabreski Airport.”
Ms. Reyer, who’s been with her son constantly since his injury, was honored by New Beginnings the night before as its “Caretaker of the Year.”
“New Beginnings is the only facility for traumatic brain injury patients on Long Island,” Ms. Reyer said. “Everything else is in the city.”
Click here to visit Mr. Halpin’s GoFundMe page.