Capturing memories as daughter takes flight

  • Written by Claudia Parker


A couple of years ago, former president George HW Bush celebrated his 90th birthday skydiving. I wondered if he was itching for his birthday to become his death-day with a daring move like that. He survived! And surprisingly, many people do.

Skydiving isn’t as risky as I thought. According to the United States Parachuting Association, there are 0.005 fatalities per 1,000 jumps, which is said to be lower than automobile fatalities.

“Really,” I pondered? My wheels started turning!

“Mommy’s going to take you skydiving to celebrate your ninth birthday,” I excitedly stated to my daughter, Donae. Not only did she go skydiving for her birthday, but I managed to convince other parents to allow their children to come. No worries. The kids didn’t jump from a plane. They did their skydiving indoors at iFLY in Rosemont!

“Indoor skydiving is the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel,” says the iFLY website.

Donae’s party was comprised of 12 eager fliers. We had to arrive an hour before our scheduled flights for training. Our certified flight instructor taught everyone the proper body position for flying and hand signals we needed to understand during the flight. The velocity of the wind makes it difficult to speak, let alone hear. Sign language is a must. “Relax,” was a frequent sign I recall seeing him using. Not on me, I didn’t fly. I was too busy snapping the action. “Put the camera down. You should be doing this with us,” Don stated.

“And miss capturing the memories. You sound absurd!” I told him, “When you feast your eyes on these shots you’ll be happy I didn’t fly.”

iFLY is aware of the necessity to capture the action. They take photos and video of each flight and make them available for purchase. Our party package included complimentary videos. So all I needed to do was fire away at their windblown faces. I found myself stopping every couple of minutes to laugh hysterically at a few of their “get-me-outta-here” expressions. The kids were fine, it was her godparents that had me busting a gut.    

Everyone looked adorable in their flight gear. They looked like little fighter pilots auditioning for the sequel to the movie “Top Gun.” They wore jumpsuits, helmets and goggles. The entire flight experience was about 30 minutes. Each of them received two one-minute flights with the instructor. Then, we were escorted into the party room. iFLY supplied the party decorations, tableware, balloons, pizza, and soft drinks. All I had to do was bring the cake and the kids!

“Mom, this was the best birthday party ever,” said the groggy voice of Donae as I tucked her into bed that night. Her friends must have felt the same. I received several emails from parents expressing their appreciation. One mom wrote, “…she hasn’t stopped talking about it…” and another parent said, “Thank you for giving her an awesome experience.”

Of course I started straightaway creating a photobook. Then I produced a cinematic movie trailer with the video footage.

Oh, what fun!

Life is a precious, fragile state that can change in an instant. It should be celebrated in grand style. My girls are growing up fast and I revel in every moment where they allow me to dote over them.

Donae is respectful, kind, intelligent and friendly. She shoulders a lot of responsibility looking after her sister, Rhonda-Rene, who has special needs. On numerous occasions Donae has been asked to concede her desires for the sake of her sister. The scales don’t always tip in her favor. Yet, she handles it with maturity and tries not to internalize the lack of attention as rejection. It’s an ongoing effort for me and Don to balance the needs of both children. It’s a common challenge for many parents of children with disabilities. Thank heavens for birthdays. At least there’s one day where they each get to be the star on their own stage.

Happy Birthday, Donae! Keeping soaring high, baby girl. Mommy will always be the wind beneath you.    

For more information about iFLY, visit