In May 2015 Horsted Keynes resident, Claire Todd proudly accepted her Tandem Skydive certificate with shaky hands and an enormous smile on her face. Claire is a teaching assistant at St Giles Primary School and runs ‘Swoove’ dance and exercise classes for children. In the months leading up to her dive, Claire was on playground duty one morning and realised that the school lacked a community defibrillator – a machine which is used to treat sudden heart attacks. During a cardiac arrest, the blood stops flowing around the body due to an irregular heartbeat and is life threatening. However, the heartbeat can be restored with the use of a defibrillator along with CPR.
Knowing full well that a defibrillator would stretch funds, she decided to propose her idea of taking part in a tandem skydive in order to raise money for one. To Claire’s relief, the PTA fully supported and funded this incredible experience with gift aid and money came flooding in from parents, friends and family and the community; most notably, donations from The Lion’s Club and the Rotary Club.
With a wealth of support cheering her on, Claire made her way to Headcorn Skydiving Aerodrome in Kent where she met her instructor and professional photographer that would accompany her on her dive. Hidden in the pocket of her jumpsuit was a letter from one of her students:
‘Dear Mrs Todd be confident when you skydive, lots of love, Lily.’
In the previous year, Claire travelled to Gloucestershire and celebrated her birthday in an unconventional way by Wing-walking with The Breitling Wing Walkers. After being strapped to the top of a plane and whizzing through the sky, she felt like she could accomplish anything. With an incredible experience under her wing (pun intended), skydiving seemed perfect for Claire and after battling personal issues, she gained the confidence to do it.
As the plane climbed to 12,000 feet, Claire looked gingerly out of the window at the houses getting smaller. After asking if they were high enough yet, her instructor laughed and told her that they had another nine thousand feet to go! Finally it was time to jump and with her hands crossed over her chest, strapped to her instructor, they fell together. As instructed, Claire screamed so she wouldn’t lose her breath, tumbling through the air and suddenly she was yanked into the air by the parachute. The view of the Kent countryside was breath-taking and she was even allowed to steer the parachute as they floated back to earth.
She did it! And best of all, through kind donations they raised more than £1700 for a defibrillator for the school.
Because of Claire’s courage, she has reduced the possibility of future deaths from cardiac arrest. Sadly, approximately two hundred and seventy children die from sudden cardiac arrest every year in the UK without the use of a ‘defib’. However when there is access to one of these machines, they can increase the chance of survival by a staggering 74% when used in conjunction with CPR.
Claire is a real life superhero and wishes to spend the residual from the money raised, on enriching activities for St Giles’ playground.
By Georgia Lambert