Daredevils join John for 80th celebrations

A DAREDEVIL octogenarian from Clevedon was joined by 80 fund-raisers in a mass skydiving extravaganza at the weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday, John Wilkins celebrated his 80th birthday by jumping out of a plane three times to raise money for an expansion of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol.

This has taken the number of skydives the ex-paratrooper has completed for the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal, which also raises money for Bristol Children’s Hospital, to 31.

The feat is made even more extraordinary as John has just completed a three-month course of radiotherapy following a recent diagnosis for prostate cancer.

He said: “I wanted to celebrate being an octogenarian in style and am delighted 80 fellow daredevils joined me to mark the occasion and help raise thousands of pounds for the Cots for Tots appeal.”

The 80-strong skydiving team, which gathered at Redland Airfield near Swindon for the event, ranged in ages from 18 to 80 and was made up of people from all walks of life including John’s son-in-law, parents of babies treated at the NICU, staff from the NICU and a number of Clevedon residents.

The money raised will go to the grand appeal’s Cots for Tots appeal, which aims to raise �1million for a new intensive care suite with four additional life-saving cots at the NICU and dedicated family accommodation nearby.

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When created, this will allow a further 150 babies to be treated at the unit per year. The NICU currently treats around 600 babies annually, with the demand for the service continually rising.

The appeal’s fund-raising and events manager, Lauren Vincent, said: “John is an inspiration to us all and we can’t thank him enough for all the support he has shown the charity over the years.”

Over the past 13 years, John has raised more than �140,000 for the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal through daring stunts including skydiving, abseiling and a zip slide down the Avon Gorge.

He now has his sights set on the UK’s highest bungee jump.

The response to the weekend’s event was so positive that he also plans to hold a similar mass skydive on September 10.

Anyone interested in taking part should email Lauren@cotsfortots.org.uk or call 0800 919649.

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