* A ROSIELICIOUS EVENT – Jump For the Rose – October 11-13, 2013

A very special group of ladies at Skydive Spaceland in TX, organized a very pink 3-day skydive and community action event, Jump For the Rose (JFTR).

In its fourth year, the event spearheaded by Marian Sparks – a breast cancer survivor, was designed as a way to give back.  In 2009, Marian found herself divorced, without insurance and with breast cancer.  By luck she was steered to an organization in Houston, TX, called The Rose.  All her medical needs were taken care of with expertise, grace and without any cost.  She told her doctor, she would find a way to repay the groups’ kindness.  In 2010, she founded the non-profit organization, Jump for the Rose (JFTR).  When Marian handed Dr. Dixie Melillo, also the Medical Director and Co-Founder of The Rose, a check after her first skydiving fundraiser, the good doctor was floored. She had never expected Marian to follow through with that promise.  “Dr. Dixie,” now makes the annual trek out to Spaceland to participate in the weekends’ activities and talk to the participants.

Because of her tireless activism, Marian’s name was submitted to the Susan G. Komen foundation to be one of their “survivor” representatives.  Her beautiful face has now been featured in countless commercials and print ads.  She has found her calling!


Each year JFTR has a different theme.  This year it was designed as a mini-boogie with a variety of fun dives – head down, sit, belly and wing suit.  Diane Chamberlain, Scott Elmer and Chuck Akers organized several high intensity, multiple point 12 to 15-way dives.  Michael Swearingen put together cool wingsuit dives. USPA North Central Region Director and National Freestyle Champion, Merriah Eakins flew in to orchestrate freefly dives and as a delegate of the Pink Mafia, she organized a Barbie dive, during which the four Barbies and their jumper/handlers did the “hokey pokey” square dance from 13,000’, (Wardrobe mishaps well documented by aerial cinematographer, Norman Kent.)


Several jumps were also made with teddy bears that would later be donated to children undergoing cancer treatment – a “brave bear” for a brave patient.


A big part of this year’s theme was “inclusivity.”  No girl left behind.  In one of my favorite jumps of the weekend, we invited novice jumper Nicole, who had only 28 jumps, to join us on a 15-way multiple point dive.  Putting her in the base between highly capable formation veterans, she became the central focus of the group.  We formed a beautiful formation and everyone got to see her grin from ear to ear.  She was still grinning as the weekend wound to a close with some persistent rain showers.  It was a thrilling reward for all to help a new jumper achieve a milestone and join the fold!


A women’s Vertical Formation Skydiving 4-way Head-Up state record was set – participants were: Merriah Eakins, Katrina Shows, Nicole Black and Alex Neale. USPA Judges Christy Hitchens and Randy Connell were on hand to certify the new Texas state record.


At the center of the hangar, coordinating and emceeing the event, the core volunteers of JFTR set up a silent auction and raffle – featuring an amazing skydiving t-shirt quilt, skydiving gear, flat-screen TV and about 85 other items. Several vendors of everything from genuine American Indian medicine bags to purses with changeable covers donated proceeds to the JFTR as well.  (As of press time over $10,000 had been raised.)


During the afternoon weather holds, two major indoor attractions were held.  The multiple award winning film, Pink Skies, was screened followed by Q&A and a breakout session on breast cancer prevention for the participants.


World renown aerial cinematographers, Norman Kent, gave a talk on several of his most noted projects including the recent HTC commercial – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwGGdM3Nj08. He also showed clips of his amazing skydive sequence in the film Get Smart and his awe inspiring aerial work with a falcon.


Norman was also on hand all weekend to cover the aerial action – in an artistic way that belies his perfectionist eye.  Head videographer, Matt Sandt, provided additional camera for JFTR. See Norman’s coverage at: www.normankent.com



Locals set up a mobile kitchen and made authentic Cajun Gumbo in a big iron pot.  Everyone gifted and contributed their talents, time and energy to make this heartfelt event a big success.


In closing, JFTR founder, Marian Sparks remarked, “I have been a survivor all of my life, but recently, I had found something that truly made me feel alive. I have found my family, a place that I belong and my true love.  That is what skydiving is for me. This cancer threat is never going to take that away!”






USPA Judges –

Christi Hitchens – Skydiving since 1969 and National Judge since 2002 – Texas

Randy Connell – Founder of MidEast Skydiving League and Federation                     Aeronautique International Judge – Virginia


Jump Organizers –

Diane Chamberlain – Women’s World Record holder, Lead Organizer – Texas

Scott Elmer – USA World Cup member, 2005 – Texas

Chuck Akers – Local radio DJ and Spaceland Organizer -Texas

Mike Sweariinger – current National Wingsuit Record Holder and leader of more wingsuit records than any other flyer in the world. – Texas

Merriah Eakins – 2 Time National Freestyle Champion, along with 7 Silver medals and 1 Bronze medal. She is also a USPA Regional Director – Minnesota


Special Guests

Gulcin Gilbert – Women’s World Record Holder and Producer/Director of the Documentary, Pink Skies

Norman Kent – Director of Photography, Aerial Cinematographer, Photographer, Skydiver, and Stunt Man


Videographer/Camera Flyer – Matt Sandt – JFTR Lead Videographer

Countries represented – Brazil, United States


States represented – Massachusetts, Texas, California, Florida, Minnesota, Virginia, Louisiana


Records Set – Vertical Formation Skydiving 4-way Large Formation Head-Up Female State Record. Participants: Merriah Eakins, Robin Williams, Nicole Black, and Alex Neale


Pink Mafia Barbie Dive – Merriah Eakins – delegate, with Gulcin Gilbert, Marian Sparks, Robin Williams


Number of cancer survivors who attended – 8


Oldest Participant- 75 years old

Youngest Participant – 18 years old


Female jump participants -: Marian Sparks, Merriah Eakins, Robin Williams, Nicole Black, Alex Neale, Gulcin Gilbert, Leah Bissonett, Lori Mitchell, Kara Barbee, Helaine  Rumaner,  Marian Canas, Stacy Curry, Lisa Weiss, Kirsten Johnson, Nicole Ortiz, Megan Rozman


Cancer survivors in attendance – Lori Mitchell, Marian Sparks, Roxie Patterson, Krystal Glass, Michael Stroud, Tim Morrison, Martha Gaskin and Rita Sandt

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