Jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft may seem like a crazy idea, but not for a 77-year-old Nisswa woman.
For Ramona "Nonie" Stumvoll, it's not about an adrenaline rush, although she is an adventurer and loves to fly. For her, jumping out of an aircraft is an extraordinary way to draw attention to the plight of people who suffer from Parkinson's disease. Stumvoll's husband, Don, has suffered from the disease for about nine years.
Hannah Rempe, "Nonie" Stumvoll and Dale Walz discussed their upcoming skydiving plans during the Parachuting for Parkinson's fundraising dinner on Saturday at the American Legion in Nisswa. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Stumvoll said there were all kinds of fundraisers involving walking, running - even plunging. But parachuting wasn't something that typically made the list. She thought about it for a couple of years and then recently mentioned the idea to Dale Walz, former Baxter police captain and former state legislator from Brainerd. Walz was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2004.
"This is something we came up with on our own," Stumvoll said. "I said it to Dale and he said 'let's do it.'"
Stumvoll and Walz intend to make the jump along with a few friends and family members. They'll be jumping in tandem with a skydiving instructor, so even if a jumper's mind went blank after free-falling from the aircraft, there isn't the worry a chute won't be pulled.
At a glance
Parachuting for Parkinson's is planned June 28 at Brainerd International Raceway.
The event is designed to raise money for Parkinson's disease research.
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disease affecting muscle movement. The progressive disease may leave sufferers unable to move or speak.
Monetary donations are welcome to: Parachuting for Parkinson's, P.O. Box 1192, Brainerd, MN 56401.
"I'm not a bit afraid about it," Stumvoll said.
The group hopes to raise $50,000 for Parkinson's research and is receiving support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Proceeds will be donated to Fox's foundation.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," Walz said.
They plan to parachute from a helicopter.
"It's a lot safer than a lot of people think it is," Walz said, adding that people who have done it have told him there is no experience like the incredible feeling during the free-fall.
"It's scary," Walz said. "It's going to be neat. We're looking forward to it."
The National Parkinson Foundation reports that there are an estimated 60,000 new cases of the disease diagnosed each year in the U.S., joining the 1.5 million Americans already affected by the disease. The foundation reports that while the condition usually develops after the age of 65, 15 percent of those diagnosed are younger than 50.
With research, Walz said people remain hopeful a cure will be found.
Details about public attendance and raising additional donations on the day of the jump are still being worked out. As for the jump itself, Walz said, "We just have something we believe in - finding a cure. That's why we are doing it."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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