Falling for families in Virginia

Four days after his 70th birthday, Charlie Dyson jumped out of a plane.

Skydiving wasn’t something he’d always wanted to do, a bucket list item or something he’d done when he was in the military. “It wasn’t something I’d ever thought about doing,” he says. In fact, his first thought at learning of Hanover Habitat for Humanity’s “Falling for Families” fundraiser was, “Why would anybody do such a crazy thing?”

To support Habitat, of course. The creative idea for a fundraiser came out of a brainstorming session when Hanover Habitat realized it needed something unique to attract donations in the current economy. The Falling for Families event was the affiliate’s first foray into online fundraising, and was “a huge success,” says Ashley Timberlake, who serves as Hanover Habitat’s community engagement coordinator and also jumped. The April event raised more than $11,000 in four months.

Dyson himself raised nearly $5,000. He says, in a video recorded the day of his jump and on his fundraising page, that he stopped thinking the idea was crazy when he started thinking of the hard-working families he’d gotten to know as a weekly construction volunteer — and how many more like them still need a hand up. The timing, he says — so close to his milestone birthday — gave him the feeling that he was being led to participate. He also hoped his birthday might encourage people to donate.

As for the jump itself, “it was very exciting,” he says. “I’d be lying if I said when I got to the door of the plane I wasn’t a little apprehensive, but I enjoyed it. I guess if I thought I could raise a lot of money, I’d do it again.”

He could do it again as soon as late September, when a second Falling for Families event is scheduled. Habitat Hanover hopes to do one jump every year, so Dyson will have plenty of opportunities to skydive for a good cause, should he decide to take another leap.

Megan Frank