It was a reunion of sorts as the Canadian Armed Forces Skyhawks parachute team paid a visit to One Kids Place Children’s Treatment Centre Tuesday afternoon, ahead of Armed Forces Day.
This marks the third year that the team has dropped into the treatment centre.
Team members interacted with the children and their families, letting them suit up in their gear to feel what it was like to wear a parachute and they had one-on-one conversations with the youngsters, gladly posing for pictures.
“They truly love visiting the kids at One Kids Place. It’s a magical place and they love interacting with the children,” said Captain Leah Pierce, Public Affairs Officer, 22 Wing CFB North Bay.
Leading Seaman Jennifer MacKinnon is one of the rookies on this year's team.
“What excited me the most is I started skydiving as a civilian, so this is my first time skydiving in a military setting. I fell in love with the sport. Honestly, there’s nothing that I could compare it to, and the fact that I was able to have the opportunity to do it as a career, just kind of blew my mind. I tried out and here I am.”
Training requires spending six weeks in California, where they do 200-250 jumps which MacKinnon says averages out to six to eight jumps a day. They do everything from safety, to canopy piloting skills and formations.
MacKinnon is the only female on the male-dominated team. She says it’s like having a team full of brothers.
Being part of the visit to One Kids Place was something special for MacKinnon.
“It was incredible. I was so happy when I walked in and saw their faces light up. I’m glad that we were actually able to come here and put on a little demonstration for them. It’s fantastic.”
MacKinnon and a few of her team members were presented with a thank you card from eight-year-old Freya Gale, who was impressed to see a woman on the team.
“It’s awesome. It shows that girls can do anything boys can do,” said Gale.
Young Dylan Rivenbark posed with some team members for a souvenir picture. He had a special request.
“I asked if I could go skydiving. I want one of the fighter jets to take me over my house, so I parachute off the fighter jet and land on my back porch. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but I don’t know until I ask,” grinned Rivenbark.
Dad Jim Stewart admits his son Dylan is adventuresome. He appreciates the effort made by the Skyhawks to meet the children.
“This afternoon we saw these guys practicing, doing some routines and here they are two hours later, stopping in to visit. They probably have three or four more places to go. They get to be part of the community. They’re an extension of the Canadian Armed Forces and they’re good ambassadors. This is great.”
Seven-year-old Kaden Roy was happy to get some one-on-one time.
Grandmother, Lison Roy, enjoyed watching the interaction with the children.
“I think it’s a good thing for all the children because they like it and they have fun. That’s all that counts. I like it too. It’s different.”
Master Corporal Antoine Collette is experiencing his first year with the team.
“It’s awesome. I enjoy jumping, so I get to do what I like for my work, so that’s pretty cool. Every jump is different, we’re always jumping in different locations so it’s good to be a little nervous beforehand. It keeps you safe. I’m always the first out of the plane. Blue skies and no wind, those are the perfect conditions for us.”
One Kids Place development officer, Katharine Strang, described the event as a great community partnership.
“We love having them here interacting with the kids. It’s very cute to watch because they brought lanyards for them to have. We’ve made little paper airplanes with them. It’s very interesting to see the kid’s eyes when the Skyhawks describe what they do. It’s incredible for these kids to know these people jump out of planes.”
Armed Forces Day takes place at the North Bay Waterfront today starting at 10:30 a.m, and wraps up at 2 p.m.
The day will showcase a number of static displays as well as musical entertainment.
And if the weather cooperates, the Canadian Armed Forces Skyhawks parachute team and CF-18 Demo team will put on a demonstration.
They will return for a twilight performance from 6 to 8:30 p.m.