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76-year-old sky-dives to raise money for charity

Kathy Gibson, 76, of Bayville, made the tandem

Kathy Gibson, 76, of Bayville, made the tandem jump to raise money for Rotary District 7250's Gift of Life project, which provides free medical services to children with heart disease. (Sept. 22, 2012) Credit: Handout

To close out the end of summer, 76-year-old Kathy Gibson strapped herself to a professional sky diver and jumped out of a plane flying 13,500 feet over Long Island to support a cause close to her heart.

“I don’t think it’s dangerous,” said Gibson, of Bayville, past district governor of Rotary International. “I have a very, very long bucket list and this was on it.”

Gibson was among the 21 Rotarians and volunteers who sky-dived on Saturday over Calverton Executive Airpark to benefit Rotary District 7250's Gift of Life project, raising about $25,000 to provide free medical services for children with heart disease.

The sky divers wore “Jump for Life” T-shirts to mark the inaugural event at Skydive Long Island in the Calverton airpark.

“You see a child come into the United States blue, their fingernails blue and they need to be helped off the plane,” Gibson said. “They get surgery at our hospitals and they come out and they have a whole new birthday, a whole new life.”

Jackie Debari, 30, an art teacher at Berry Hill Elementary in Syosset, jumped in memory of her 2-year-old niece Cara Tobias, who lost her fight with brain cancer in March.

“This jump is for Cara. I’m going to do everything I can to help these children,” said Debari, who raised $3,300 for Gift of Life. “I’ve skydived many times, but this time it’s a little bit different. It’s closer to home when you lose someone you love. Jumping out of a plane is nothing compared to helping a child.”

Angela Lostritto followed Gibson after she somersaulted off the plane with the instructor and landed minutes later with a gigantic smile on her face and her hands held high.

“It felt great. This is just the start for me,” said Lostritto, 49, of Manhasset, who has already sponsored three children, paying for their surgeries and transportation to the United States. “It’s so satisfying knowing that these children leave here healthy and they know they have a life ahead of them.”

Gibson closed out her summer doing exactly what she loves best — helping children. Hours after she parachuted to the ground, she drove to Oktoberfest in Locust Valley to read to children on behalf of the local Rotary.

“It was an awesome experience and we did it for the right reason,” Gibson said. “To just be incredibly free and to look down at God’s work and know that we’re having fun and saving children, I just feel so blessed.”

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