A British dad has won hearts, along with raising awareness of a cruel disease, by skydiving for his stepson. The leap was no mean feat, as the man is allegedly so afraid of heights that he feels dizzy standing on a chair.
Josh Collins, 28, a barber by profession, volunteered himself for the skydive to raise funds for an all-terrain electric wheelchair for his 8-year-old stepson, Zach Holland, as the young boy’s request is stuck in a backlog with wheelchair services owing to the pandemic.
“I’ve always been scared of heights,” Josh, from Daventry in England’s East Midlands region, admitted to Lad Bible. “It’s weird because when I can see down and there’s a possibility of me losing balance, I get a vertigo thing.”
Feeling fearful, Josh rationalized that the skydive would only be “a bad time” for 20 minutes or so. “[T]hen we’re going to get Zach the chair he wants,” he said.
At the age of 5, Zach was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder with a 100 percent fatality rate. The condition causes progressive muscle weakness and impairs heart function, which can eventually cause acute respiratory failure.
Duchenne is more prevalent in boys, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and affects six people in every 100,000 in Europe and North America. Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure.
The condition means that Zack struggles to be able to walk for longer distances unaided or needs to be pushed in the manual wheelchair, or in some cases even carried by his parents.
Zach’s mom, Laura Holland, 28, has known Josh since the pair were teenagers. They became a couple after Zach’s diagnosis, and Laura praises her partner’s close relationship with her son, calling Josh “Britain’s best dad.”
The family started a GoFundMe page to collect sponsorship for Josh’s skydive, with a target of 14,000 pounds (US$18,402). Donations that exceed the target will go toward covering Zach’s future medical needs, and, in his mother’s words, toward “bettering his quality of life,” according to an Instagram message to The Epoch Times.
Josh scheduled a skydive for Sept. 27 with his friend Dan. “Our names are Dan and Josh and we’re two big, hairy, tattooed blokes who are both petrified of heights!” the pair wrote on the GoFundMe page.
“If a kid can be as brave as [Zach] is,” they continued, “we reckon we can suck it up and face our fears!”
However, the poor weather conditions in the East Midlands area delayed the jump by three days, but Josh and Dan geared themselves up again and completed their 10,000-foot leap on Sept. 30. Naturally, Josh’s biggest supporter of all was 8-year-old Zach.
Laura, a supervisor, expressed her immense pride to The Epoch Times. “They were incredible,” she said. “Josh said it was both the most terrifying and amazing thing he’s ever done!”
“He definitely enjoyed it more than he was expecting,” she continued, “but I don’t think he’ll be in a hurry to jump out of any more planes any time soon.”
Laura explained to Lad Bible that Josh and Zach’s bond is incredible. “They will do everything together,” she marveled. “Josh is really patient with Zach and will play with him for hours on his video games.”
However, after Laura gave birth to her daughter this year, she found herself unable to push both her baby’s and Zach’s chairs at the same time. While Josh was at work, the mom and her kids were housebound.
Josh’s selfless skydive was also an effort to give his family back their independence, as Zach will now be able to operate his brand-new electric wheelchair by himself.
“Our main mission is just to give Zach an incredible life,” Laura reflected. “We go on lots of adventures. Now his mobility is declining it’s more difficult, but once he’s got his chair we can take him anywhere.”
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