Sunday, 19 September 2021

Mother and autistic son’s skydive raises £1,400 for charity

A WOMAN who is afraid of flying and heights took part in a charity skydive with her autistic son.

A WOMAN who is afraid of flying and heights took part in a charity skydive with her autistic son.

Phip Woodhatch, of Wallingford Road, Goring, jumped from an aeroplane at 10,000ft along with  16-year-old George, who has Asperger’s syndrome.

She agreed to face her fears after accepting a dare from the teenager on New Year’s Eve.

The pair raised £1,400 for the National Autistic Society, which supported the family when George was diagnosed four years ago.

They were supposed to carry out the jump at Redlands Airfield, near Swindon, on April 25, George’s 16th birthday, but had to postpone it due to poor weather.

It went ahead a fortnight ago and each made the jump tethered to a qualified instructor by a safety harness.

George leapt first with no hesitation followed by his more reluctant mother.

Mrs Woodhatch, 47, said: “I was absolutely terrified but I couldn’t let George or the people who sponsored us down.

“As we reached the edge of the plane I tucked my legs under, as per our training, and put my head back as I couldn’t face looking down.

“For what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a billisecond, my body was out of the plane while my instructor was still on the door ledge.

“In that split-second I panicked as I knew there was no going back. With my body out of the plane, there was nothing to grab on to so no chance of changing my mind.”

As she plummeted earthwards at 140mph, Mrs Woodhatch plucked up the courage to look down.

She said: “It was such a surreal feeling as we dropped through the clouds and saw a green world open up below us.

“The noise of the air rushing past sounded like a helicopter was just behind my ears.”

After falling 5,000ft, the instructor deployed their parachute.

Mrs Woodhatch said: “There was instant silence as the ’chute broke our freefall, then a violent yank upwards and we were floating high in the sky. The awesome view and incredible feeling of sailing serenely was like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even through my terror I recognised the wonder of what I was doing.”

As they neared the ground, Mrs Woodhatch could see her son a short distance beneath her.

She said: “He was having a whale of a time with his instructor, laughing, waving and swooping all over the place and loving every second.

“I was just concentrating on breathing and was determined not to be sick. George glided to the ground with a huge smile on his face and then it was our turn.

“As the ground approached I found the strength to lift my legs up and we were down in one piece.

“George leapt up full of smiles but I needed a few minutes to recover. My legs were like jelly and I didn’t want to stand up.

“The relief of having completed it was immense — I really had doubted that I’d be able to do it. I don’t think George could have picked a more challenging activity for me but we did it and raised a brilliant amount of money.”

George said: “The jump was the most relaxed I have ever been. I could see the whole world below me but they couldn’t see me.”

Mrs Woodhatch said: “George amazes me with the challenges he can face in his everyday life so it was only fair that I took on the challenge he presented to me.

“I didn’t want to let him down and am so proud that we did this together. I don’t feel the need to do it again but I will never regret doing it.” George is taught at a specialist unit at Lord Williams’ School in Thame and is now finishing his GCSEs.

He works in the kitchen at the Catherine Wheel in Goring and will be studying animal management at the Berkshire College of Agriculture from September.

Staff and regulars at the pub sponsored him and his mother as did the Goring and Streatley Concert Band, Goring Free Church, Goring Thames Sailing Club and several of his teachers.

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