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Dutchess Residents 'Leap For Autism' Saturday

Marie Nester, division director at Greystone Programs, jumping out of a plane at last year's Leap For Autism.
Marie Nester, division director at Greystone Programs, jumping out of a plane at last year's Leap For Autism. Photo Credit: Contributed

Two years ago, Greystone Programs, based in Hopewell Junction, wanted to host a fundraiser that wasn't a simple walk or gala. So they decided to take to the sky.

More than 50 people are jumping out of a plane Saturday to raise money for Greystone, a not for profit that provides services for people with autism. It is Greystone's second annual "Leap For Autism" event and it is taking place at 11 a.m. at Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner.

The original launch was scheduled for April 22 but was pushed back due to poor weather.

"We wanted to come up with something interesting," Rich Swanson, associate executive director of Greystone, said. "We had a colleague that jumped out of an airplane said how much fun it is."

Last year, the event drew more than 45 jumpers. This year's event will feature more than 50 jumpers and Greystone has already raised more than $50,000 from 85 fundraisers and 659 donors. For the second straight year, Swanson will be jumping out of a plane.

"When you're going up in that plane, it's nervewracking," Swanson said. "You're 13,000 feet in the air, you're above the clouds. When you're at the edge of the plane, you look down and realize this is really happening. There is no turning around."

Swanson, who jumped with a professional skydiver, said it was a great experience, especially with a cheering squad down below and knowing it was going to a good cause.

Greystone serves over 500 people annually in five counties, offering numerous services for people with autism, including residential treatment and home care. In two years, Greystone will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.

"We are big in involving our folks in the community," Swanson said. "We're not one of the biggest, but we're one of the best."

Swanson admits when the skydiving idea was first brought, he dismissed it, but he soon saw how many people had skydiving on their bucket list. The event also allows attendees and jumpers to learn more about autism and what Greystone offers.

Swanson already has ideas on how he can make his second jump better than the first.

"I'm going to try and look more relaxed," Swanson said. "Last year I looked very tight as I was falling. This year I'm going to look a little cooler.

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