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Senior to jump from plane on 90th birthday

Ken Smith of Langley will jump out of a plane on Aug. 10 to raise funds for the Crohn
Ken Smith of Langley will jump out of a plane on Aug. 10 to raise funds for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation on behalf of his daughter Joni Tessier.
— image credit: Ray Chui

A Langley senior will jump out of a plane in Abbotsford on his 90th birthday to raise funds for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation on behalf of his daughter.

Ken Smith will do the tandem jump on Aug. 10 at Skydive Vancouver, located on Gladwin Road in Abbotsford.

He said he wanted to do the jump not only to complete another adventure on his bucket list, but to help out a good cause.

His daughter, Joni Tessier of Mission, has been battling Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, since 1983.

Tessier, 56, had major surgery to remove her damaged bowel and, when the lab tested the tissues, a cancerous tumour was found.

She has since been battling for her health, with numerous hospital visits and further testing to determine why she is not getting better.

Smith first jumped out of a plane 10 years ago, and vowed he would do it again on his 90th birthday.

After witnessing his daughter’s health struggles, he decided to make this jump more meaningful.

“This time was different. I thought, ‘I really have done this. It’s kind of selfish unless I make it worth something’ … It makes me feel better if something is produced from it, rather than my ego,” he said.

Smith said one or two of his eight grandchildren might join him on the jump. He also has one great-grandchild.

Although Smith, born in England, was a pilot with the Royal Air Force in the Second World War, he had never jumped out of a plane until 2004.

“In those days (the war years), we dreaded ‘having to take to the silk,’ as we called it … You could almost expect a broken leg (with how hard you would land),” he said.

But advances in technology have produced better-designed parachutes, resulting in softer landings, and Smith enjoyed his first jump at age 80, enabling him to tick off another item on the bucket list he made upon retirement from the log-supply business at 65.

He has also para-sailed, travelled in a hot air balloon and an ultralight aircraft, and gone white-water rafting.

Smith’s next task is to do the zip line in Whistler.

“That’s what you’ve got to do when you retire. You can’t just sit around and vegetate,” he said.

Smith does not have a formal procedure for raising funds in his name for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Rather, he asks people to make a general donation through the website crohnsandcolitis.ca.

“As long as I know the money is going to the cause, that’s what I want,” he said.

 

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