LEIGHTON Freeman climbed 10,000 feet in the air to leap from a plane on Sunday – in memory of his father and to help Prospect Hospice.
As Dave Freeman’s health swiftly deteriorated after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in July 2013, a rare cancer caused by his exposure to asbestos, the plumbing and heating engineer became housebound.
But even from the comfort of his garden in Stratton, the former Swindon Town Football Club reserve player continued to observe skydivers taking the plunge for Prospect Hospice – the charity which cared for him through his illness – at the nearby Redlands Airfield through his binoculars.
“Dad was looking down on us quite literally,” Leighton, 36, of Caerphilly, said after the dive.
“It has been a long-standing relationship with the airfield really. He often used to go up there from Hinton Parva on his way to seeing his parents or old friends and would usually pop in there.
“He would sit there and watch people skydive with his binoculars from his garden. In more recent years he said he wished he had given it a go. He was quite a conservative man and would not have done it of his own volition.”
The Dave’s Devils dive team has raised close to £7,000 for the Propect already, and their fundraising page will remain open all month.
“We self-funded the jump as well, so all the donations will be going straight to Prospect,” said Leighton. “With Gift Aid it is currently standing at around £6,900, and we are going to leave the page open for another month. We began with a target of £1,500 and reached that within 24 hours. £5,000 was a tougher barrier to break.”
Craig Waldron, 30, the second diver, is a surgeon at Taw Hill and Drove surgeries, and has been pushing for donations through the practices with fundraising barometers.
“Prospect serves all of Swindon and there are not many people who do not know someone who has experienced their service in the past,” said Leighton.
Steve Graham, 52, the third diver, is the principal of an insurance company on Commercial Road.
“He doesn’t like heights and thought he was signing up for an abseil,” said Leighton. “He actually enjoyed it quite a lot. The feeling of those 30 seconds of free fall at 120 miles an hour, that sensation is like nothing I have experienced in the past.
“Dad was ill for all of last year, and was diagnosed with asbestos related cancer at the end of June. By that point he had been quite ill all year. He had support from Prospect right from the diagnosis.They were fantastic and pulled out all the stops.
“When he said he wanted to go home they did everything they could on a Sunday to get things ready for him to leave on the Monday, including home care, an oxygen mask and an ambulance.
“He had five days at home and passed away on the Friday a few hours after I came to visit from Caerphilly. He had the whole family around him. It was all lovely and calm, and he was fully accepting of his illness.”
To sponsor the team visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DavesDevils.