All Bridget Doyle could do was smile as the wind carried her over the field at Skydive Long Island Saturday.
She was about to land after having jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet for a cause close to her heart.
"Any time someone says 'cancer,' I'm in," said Doyle, one of 75 who sky-dived at locations nationwide and in Canada this weekend to raise money for cancer research through Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG foundation.
The event, dubbed "Leap for Life," was started last year by Rick Collins, 51, of Westbury when he took the plunge alone, raising more than $15,000 for the foundation.
For Doyle, 26, who traveled from Cleveland to jump with her sister Lindsay, 29, of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the decision was inspired by personal loss. Her college friend died of cancer five years ago. Two of her grandparents, several cousins, and other family members have battled various forms of cancer for years, she said.
"Virtually everyone knows somebody who's been affected with cancer," said Collins, an attorney. He lost a cousin to testicular cancer about 30 years ago this weekend and said he has several friends who have battled the disease.
Collins said he initially chose to jump out of a plane to push his boundaries for a good cause. This year, he was determined to do more, convincing more than 75 people to join the cause via online social networking and word-of-mouth. Participants solicited donations through a website - www.leapforlife.org - set up for cause.
So far this year's effort has raised more than $30,000, Collins said Saturday, adding he hoped to raise another $5,000 before the weekend's end. Divers can still sign up to jump Sunday.
Those who jumped Saturday described the experience as liberating and compared it to driving a convertible with the top down - at 150 mph. The plane ride lasts about 15 minutes, the free fall about one minute, and the parachute ride to the ground about six minutes.
Each jump costs participants $225, said Ray Maynard, owner of Sky Dive Long Island in Calverton. For every participant, Maynard said his business is donating $20 to LIVESTRONG.
In Calverton, about 25 people jumped, Collins said. For Doyle, who had nervously agreed to jump, the experience was exhilarating, she said. "It was awesome. I'd do it again."Mary Slisz, 70, of Floral Park, agreed. This was her second sky dive, she said. She had heard about the cause through Collins' mom. "There's nothing to it," she said. "Gravity is on your side."