The father of a baby boy who was born 13 weeks premature has raised £2,000 for the ambulance service his son relied on in the weeks and months after his birth by jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet.
Daniel Gardiner reached speeds of up to 120mph in the descent, which he did to raise money for the Embrace Ambulance Service, in recognition of the life-saving treatment they provided his son Chase, now aged 6 months.
60,000 babies were born prematurely in the UK last year, but just five per cent of these were classed as ‘extremely premature’, where babies are delivered before 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Daniel’s partner Alicia Howell was just 27 weeks pregnant when she was rushed to Barnsley Hospital last July, before being transferred to a hospital in Wolverhampton where Chase was delivered four days later.
Because he was so small, Chase was moved eight times between four hospitals and home by the highly-specialist round-the-clock transport service which helps critically ill infants and children in Yorkshire and the Humber who require care in hospital.
Daniel, aged 33, of Stocksbridge, said: “We got to know all the staff by name and saw up close the job they did. Without the help of the staff in Wolverhampton, Jessops, Embrace and Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Chase wouldn’t be here today.”
However, thanks to the world-class care he received, Chase now only attends appointments every six months at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, and his son’s good health prompted Daniel to give something back, which is when he saw The Children’s Hospital Charity’s skydive challenge on social media.
“If you’d have asked me before Chase was born, I’d have been one of those people saying ‘you won’t get me doing that’,” explained Daniel.
“But compared to what he has been through, jumping out of a plane didn’t seem so bad.”
“Initially, I was really concerned I wouldn’t raise much money, but as it’s a great cause, I just went for it.
“I shared updates on social media and it just snowballed from there really - everyone wanted to help.”
One donor inspired by the posts was Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
“I sent him a picture of Chase on social media and said ‘do you think these will make good goalkeeping hands one day?’,” added Daniel.
“The next thing I knew the post was getting lots of likes and retweets and I got a notification through that Keiren had kindly donated £400. It was just overwhelming.”
Elsewhere in the local community, White Rose Anglers fishing club raised £300 and Meersbrook Co-op held a bake sale and sold raffle tickets to raise a further £200. In total, he raised over £2,000 for The Children’s Hospital Charity’s fund for the Embrace Ambulance Service.
“I knew there was no backing out then! It was an incredible total, I’m really thankful to everyone who contributed. I can’t wait to tell Chase how much money we’ve raised when he grows up. To give something back is all we can do to say thank you”.
With his fundraising progressing well, Daniel’s attention turned to the small matter of the jump, which took place in Hibaldstow, a small village outside Brigg in Lincolnshire.
“The nerves kicked in about a month before and come the day I was dreading it! I had lots of friends and family there, so I was trying to act cool but I really wasn’t,” he said.
Thankfully, Daniel’s initial fears were wide of the mark.
“The jump was absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“You don’t feel how fast you are going, it’s like time stops. It’s the most surreal experience. It’s strange - you go from being frightened to loving it so quickly. I couldn’t stop grinning afterwards. It’s definitely one of the best things I have ever done.
“I’d encourage anyone who was like me - who always said they’d never do it - to do it because it’s fantastic and you’ll certainly change your view on it after.”
The next skydive for The Children’s Hospital Charity takes place on Sunday April 28. To find out more and secure your place, visit www.tchc.org.uk/events.