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Taking a leap for learning

"Last Sunday, Penn Cove resident Lorena Street was standing in the open doorway of an airplane 3,500 feet above the ground. At age 60, Street was about take an important step — outside.“I wasn’t the least bit worried until it was time,” she said Thursday, a few days after successfully completing her first ever parachute jump — a jump she promised to take as a fund-raiser for the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington. “I looked out and I said to my coach, ‘You think I’m going to jump out there? You think I’m crazy?’ ”One of the last things she remembers was seeing a sign painted on the aircraft’s wing strut. It said, SHUT UP AND JUMP.“Walking out on the wing was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, harder than giving birth,” said Street. Moments later she was free, waving her arms and legs, making snow angels in the air.“It was so sweet, so peaceful. It was clear joy. I thought I’d just stay up there,” she said.Street, a communications coordinator at the Opportunity Council in Oak Harbor, first heard about the fund-raising Leap for Learning parachute jump a couple months ago. The jump was coordinated by the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington to raise awareness and contributions to support programs and services for people with learning disabilities. Such disabilities make it difficult for some people to read, write, listen or do math. About 15-20 percent of the population is believed to have one or more learning disability.On what was a whim at first, Street started asking friends and co-workers if they would pledge money for her to jump.“In a few minutes I’d collected about $75 and I said I’m really going to do this. I’m a conservative person but I’ll take a risk if I believe in the purpose,” she said.A few weeks later, Street had gathered $2,000 in pledges.The jump itself was scheduled to take place Saturday, June 17, with more than 80 leapers. But because Street is a Seventh Day Adventist she chose to wait until the next day. The only problem with that arrangement was that she’d have to jump alone.Bad weather on that Sunday and the following Sunday made Street wait a little longer until the blue sky and light winds of July 2 brought the moment of truth.Family and friends — not all of whom thought Street’s jump was a good idea — gathered in an large, open field in Shelton to watch. Street had practiced several times on the ground, but once airborne the experience was much different, she said. She didn’t expect the wind nor the adrenaline rush to be so strong. But it was a great ride, she said afterward — a ride she would gladly take again. “It was so gentle it made me laugh,” she said. “I’d love to just spend the rest of my life floating around.” But for the moment, Street said she’s strictly grounded. Prior to her air adventure she had already promised her relatives that it would be her first and last parachute jump."

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