Permit me the use of a cliché.
It's a violation of News Writing 101, but I think you'll excuse me after you read this.
The sky is the limit for us over here at ESP.
And, in a few weeks, ESP'er Hannah Baird will help turn metaphor into literal reality.
Hannah, who is 22 and has Down's syndrome, will join more than 30 other people, including her brother, Spencer, and jump out of an airplane. (Hannah, and every other skydiving novice participating in the event will perform a tandem jump, which means she'll be strapped into a parachute with a trained professional.)
It's part of the Second Annual Jump, Fly, Be Different fundraiser. We have signed up 34 people (and counting) to raise money for ESP by skydiving on April 28, at a huge, free, family event at the Monroe-Walton County Airport. Learn about them or make a donation to your favorite ESP superhero at our website!
And they are superheroes. Each skydiver participating in Jump, Fly chooses a name for their superhero alter-ego. Hannah is Huggable Hannah. Her brother is Spencer the Spectacular.
And what name can you find other than “Spectacular” for a 20-year-old who will jump out of an airplane all for the love of a sister?
“Every single day, it's all she thinks about: being at camp, involved with other children with disabilities,” Spencer Baird says of his sister, Hannah. “It's amazing. It's a positive influence in her life.”
Hannah's passion for ESP has become Spencer's passion. He has spearheaded efforts by his fraternity at UGA, Lambda Chi Alpha, to contribute the proceeds from fundraisers to ESP. They provided $1,000 to help sponsor the ESP Big Hearts Pageant in February and have pledged $500 toward Spencer's skydive.
Spencer, in a laid back way, says he's excited about the skydive. He's not scared, he says. Anyway, Hannah has always been the flamboyant one.
When Spencer played football in high school, Hannah cheered for him from the cheerleading squad.
She's the one who will probably be so excited that she can barely sleep the night before the skydive, he says.
“Hannah has always been a social butterfly,” Spencer says. “And even now, she's just an over-the-top butterfly. ESP has really brought it out in her.”
Where Spencer's emotions about the jump are quiet and subtle, Hannah's are dramatic and demonstrative.
“I think it'll feel like it'll be like jumping off, and it'll be great,” Hannah says.
Is she scared?
“I don't ever get scared if I can be with friends and family,” she responds.
Hannah has been wrapped in love and support from the moment she came into the world. Her mother, Joan Baird, an ESP Board of Directors member, held Hannah back two years in kindergarten to give Hannah a good foundation in school.
That meant Hannah, two years older than Spencer, was in the same grade as her brother throughout school, until both graduated. Spencer took on the role of protector, keeping an eye on Hannah on the school bus, shielding her from the barbs adolescents can throw at one another – especially those deemed “different.”
Among Spencer's fraternity brothers, Hannah finds her protective shield magnified.
Another part of Hannah's galvanizing, fear-fighting force on the day of the skydive will be Kathryn Bohnhoff. Kathryn is a long-time ESP counsellor, and executive director Laura Whitaker's younger sister. Kathryn, known around ESP as Kage (a mash-up of her full name, Kathryn Joy), hopes to be in the same plane with Spencer and Hannah when their turn comes.
“Ever since we started working together, she's become one of my best friends,” Kathryn says of Hannah. “When you do big things, you want to do them with your best friends.”
The girls watch movies together, go shopping, and undertake cooking projects together.
Kathryn and Hannah's friendship is a reminder, just when we need it, that we all need the love and friendship of ESP'ers just as much as they need ours.
ESP's Second Annual Jump, Fly Be Different is not just for skydivers, and it's not just for ESP'ers. This event, on April 28 at the Monroe-Walton County Airport, is for families and lovers of fun from every corner of the community. From 10 a.m. To 6 p.m., everyone is invited to come watch our skydivers, like Hannah, Spencer, and Kathryn, drop from the sky.
Admission to the event is free. There will be food, live music, plane rides, games, a photo booth, activities for kids and adults, and so much more. Bring a lawn chair, bring a friend, and join us for some high-flying fun.