Parachute jump a joy for pensioner

Ernest Berry wanted a new challenge to look forward to. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

A Blenheim nonagenarian looking for a new challenge has opted to help charity at the same time- with a sponsored parachute jump.

At 91 years old, Blenheim poet Ernest Berry started to worry he wasn’t active enough.

He is now set to become one of 24 Marlburians preparing for the Drop for Youth charity jump for the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

The well-travelled poet has already taken to the skies once before, completing a 3000ft parachute jump to mark his 60th birthday.

“I’m not really scared of heights, well not much,” he says.

“I don’t write much anymore, and I don’t like standing still.”

Born in Christchurch in 1929, Ernest spent ten years living in Mexico after selling his Auckland-based sewing machine company.

He lived in Picton from 1993 to 2012, establishing the Picton Poets group and running a series of haiku workshops.

Ernest has twice judged the annual NZ Poetry Society contests and is Life Member of both the British Haiku Society and the NZ Poetry Society.

He lives in Blenheim with his partner, celebrated artist Triska Blumenfeld.

“I’ve yet to hear much about the training side of things for the jump but I’m looking forward to it,” he says.

The Drop for Youth fundraiser asked for volunteers from across the region to “leap into the unknown” in support of the Graeme Dingle

Foundation programmes Kiwi Can and Career Navigator.

$36,550 has been raised so far by participants that include business leaders, schoolteachers and teenagers.

Almost half of the young people in Marlborough, aged from 5 to 18 years old, benefit from the initiative, with almost 2500 children taking part every week.

Regional manager Kelvin Watts says it’s great to see so many local people stepping forward to help.

“The majority of our funding comes from Marlborough and it’s wonderful to see so many people wanting to help.

“This is a community-based initiative and it’s extra special when local people, from all walks of life, chose to step out of their comfort zone to help.

“We are very grateful.”

The event is scheduled for February. To find out more or to donate visit the Drop for Youth Givealittle page.

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