A total of €320,000 has been raised for charity this year by Skydive Ireland in association with the Irish Skydiving Club and Birr Airfield. Skydivers at the south Offaly airfield this year included eleven year old Aaron Tracey from Leitrim who raised funds for Aware, 71 year old Frank Falvey from Tralee who jumped for Pieta House and six brave priests who swapped the pulpit for a plane and got about 10,000 foot closer to heaven last May in aid of Offaly Hospice.
Banagher priest Fr Pierre Pepper joined his friends Fr Pat Gilbert from Birr, Fr Shane Crombie from Tullamore, Fr Charlie Healy from Athlone, Fr Vincent Connaughton from Leitrim and Fr Kevin Heery from Navan in a skydive he wasn't even sure he'd complete. Prior to his May skydive Fr Pepper had been in a plane just once before, and the experience led to him vowing never to set foot in one again. However his efforts were worth it. Though the venture's initial fundraising goal was set at €5,000, the group of six went on to donate just over €21,000 to Offaly Hospice.
The three most supported causes from Birr skydives this year were children's charities, cancer support and support for depression. Children's charitable causes accounted for more than €100,000 of the total funds raised during the year. CEO of Make-a-Wish Ireland Susan O'Dwyer acknowledged the efforts made for her charity. "The funds raised have made a huge difference to us, allowing us to grant some truly wonderful wishes," she said.
Adding this year's fundraising total to last year's funds raised for charity from skydives at Birr Airfield the total figure is just over €540,000. Manager of Skydive Ireland David Byrnes said he's very proud of the charity skydive programme. "Each year we get to meet amazing and inspiring people who go above and beyond their call of duty," he said. "It just shows what people can do when working together."
See Fr Pierre Pepper's skydive here: