When Michael first joined the team at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, little did he realise that he would get to enjoy acrobatic stunts performed on the wings of a plane as part of his role.
As the Hospice’s full-time events co-ordinator (and part-time daredevil!), Michael is part of the fundraising team who organises mass participation events that give our supporters the chance to take on fun challenges whilst raising vital funds for the Hospice. We caught up with him to find out how he got on when faced with his own fundraising challenge – the adrenaline-pumping Wing Walk – and how he found the exhilarating turns, zooms and 500ft drop…
I’ve always considered myself to be a novice adrenaline junkie but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would take on a Wing Walking challenge. I have a big fear of heights so I couldn’t believe it when I agreed to be strapped to the wings of a Boeing Stearman Biplane that was built in 1941!
At Birmingham St Mary’s, I work in the fundraising team which sees me organise some of the brilliant events that help raise money for the Hospice, such as Rugby Ramble and The Big Drop. I also look after our 40th anniversary-themed ‘The Fearsome Four’ challenge, which includes a Bungee Jump, Skydive, Loop the Loop experience and of course, the Wing Walk challenge. As I was the one who introduced the Wing Walk, I felt it was only right that I tested it first to make sure it would provide the best experience for our supporters – and what an experience it was.
On the day of my Wing Walk, I was taken on a tour of the airfield before being strapped onto the plane ready for takeoff. It was then that my nerves really kicked in but as soon as the wheels left the ground, I loved every moment. I’m not ashamed to say that I was screaming my head off the entire time we were up in the air – not out of fear – but out of joy!
Once we were up in the air, I didn’t want to come back down – the feeling was just incredible. The pilot did some fantastic manoeuvres which saw us steep-dive, dive and zoom around the sky. One of my favourites was when the pilot flew me above the clouds, only to do a 500ft almost vertical drop. It sounds terrifying but it was like nothing I’ve experienced before.
As I was enjoying the manoeuvres in the sky, my friends and family were cheering me on from the ground. It was great to have them there, especially as they took lots of photos of me enjoying my Wing Walk experience. I even plucked up the courage to give them a little wave at one point.
With my feet firmly back on the ground, I felt really proud to have taken on such a thrilling challenge for the Hospice. Unfortunately, I don’t have the skills to be a nurse or doctor but I do pride myself for throwing myself head first (quite literally sometimes) into all sorts of crazy fundraising activities to help people, as well as encouraging others to do the same.
My role at the Hospice involves speaking to and supporting our wonderful fundraisers who take on all sorts of events to help raise money for the charity. They always push themselves to raise vital funds – whether it’s running a marathon or doing a 10,000ft skydive – and it was this reason that made me want to take on a challenge myself. Seeing the care and support that the Hospice provides to so many families is also what motivated me to push myself to the limits and so taking on the Wing Walk was my way of giving something back.
The Wing Walk was such an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anybody. I could never put into words what I was feeling when I was flying amongst the clouds. The only thing I can say with certainty is that it was one of the best experiences of my life and I hope that one day, I can do it all over again.
Thank you Michael for sharing your story with us. If you’ve been inspired by Michael’s story and fancy taking on your own daring challenge, check out our thrilling Fearsome Four package which includes details on our Wing Walking experience.