Two weeks ago–August 20, to be exact–Sally Elston gave an interview clip to CTV, dedicated her first skydive jump to her ex-husband, gathered the financial support she’d received in pledges, met her jump partner at the last minute and boarded a plane.
She was doing this in support of Lou Gehrig’s disease research, and the research foundation established by ALS sufferer Derek Walton. She pledged a dollar-for-dollar match from the charitable foundation established by herself and her husband, Cy Elston, who passed away two years ago. Sally’s ex-husband, George Drought, has been recently diagnosed with ALS and she felt moved to dedicate her jump to him.
Cy’s generous spirit lives on in the unique gifts supported by the Elston Foundation and Sally felt that her skydive would be in keeping with her approach to life.
It turns out that pledges nearing $20,000 will double as the final gift.
Sally, at age 72, is a pragmatic, experienced business woman. She’s used to making decisions based on thorough knowledge and raw instinct. She’s accustomed to success and acquainted with its cousin, pain. Her game plan included a successful skydive, a few days at home, then a flight to England to be with her sister.
But, her skydive didn’t go the way she had planned. Right from the start, her plans of the thrill of free falling through thousands of feet of space, guided into place gently by a parachute and a jump partner… well, it just didn’t go that way.
First, she couldn’t get her goggles to stay on. And then, her parachute jammed and with a reserve chute activated by her jump partner, her landing was a bit unconventional.
She broke two bones on landing… her femur and her ankle. Still strapped to her jump partner, she insisted on remaining immobilized until the ambulance arrived and emergency crews took her to Royal Victoria Hospital. She considered herself lucky to get the surgical team of Drs O’Sullivan and Ikejiani and her surgery went well.
She talked herself out of hospital two weeks later, to arrive home to a recliner chair, a bell and committed friends who are with her at home as she recovers. The trip to England is delayed while she recovers full use of her leg.
And so, despite plans for a dramatic, exhilarating jump, Sally got exhilarating pain and the frustration of a lifetime event that she plans never to repeat.
And yet, she looks at it with a positive attitude.
“I don’t regret this jump one bit,” she says. “I dedicated my jump to my ex-husband and his wife. He now has ALS and they have a rough road ahead.
“I can only say there are 3000 people living with this disease in Canada and most of them don’t live even two years. Hopefully the money raised will help isolate the cause and find a cure one day.”
Sally looks at the whole event as inspiring. I’m so moved by the number of people who told me about their own family problems with ALS, friends and close relationships who are affected by this horrible disease.
“There’s a reason for everything, and I’ll be fine.”
That, in a nutshell, is Sally Elston. $20,000 to become $40,000. Who knows what that money will achieve? It’s inspired Sally in ways she would never have anticipated.