Skydivers Supporting Sobriety
Features | Aug 01, 2022
Skydivers Supporting Sobriety

Adrian VanKeuren

Photos by Elliot Byrd.

Over Memorial Day weekend, 76 members of the group Skydivers Supporting Sobriety descended on Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, for their first boogie, which they are planning to make an annual event. It was a weekend of camaraderie, shenanigans both on the ground and in the air and (sober) revelry, thanks in part to the mocktails provided by the onsite Tiki bar. Despite this being many skydivers’ first trip to Skydive Chicago, cries of “beer!” were noticeably absent.

Skydivers Supporting Sobriety started in April 2020; since its inception, the group has grown to 785 members worldwide. According to one of the original members, “What matters more than the number of people in the group is the amount of people we have helped find their way to sobriety.” However, there is no requirement for sobriety to join the group; those supportive of skydivers choosing to follow a sober lifestyle—whatever that means to each person—are all welcome.

SSS member Katie Lazarus says of the group, “Our goal is to be a safe space to ask for help or just to feel that you are not alone in the journey or struggle of life as a sober skydiver.” While SSS is not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, the group hosts weekly support meetings via Zoom; different meeting leaders choose their own format for these meetings.

Meetings took place twice daily at the boogie, facilitated by a longtime AA member and skydiver. The meetings drew about 100 people throughout the weekend, including some locals from the area. One even wanted to do his first tandem jump after attending. “Several newer sober people who had never been to a meeting said they felt they needed to start attending after seeing our meeting,” said the facilitator.

Despite only being able to jump one of the four boogie days due to weather, SSS managed to send up 44 total loads on Saturday. Freeflying and large belly jumps were plentiful, as were smaller group jumps. Weather day activities included a trip to see the movie “Top Gun: Maverick,” seminars held by the organizers and a trip to the local bowling alley. Skydivers also gathered in the hangar to share stories and experiences from both jumping and their sobriety journeys. In short, the boogie had something for all attendees.

Belly organizers included Gorka Amian, Lauren Byrd and Katie Healy, with Steph Libby taking on shenanigan jumps. Freefly organizers were Daniel Adams, Gian Franco, Chazi Rutz and Leslie Menetrier, with Taylor Buffington on shenanigans. Brendan Peery organized wingsuit jumps. Videographers included Anthony Armendariz, Elliot Byrd and Anthony Cernera.

Cookie Helmets, Melanie Curtis, Fluid Wings, Larsen & Brusgaard, Option Gravity, Paraclete XP Skyventure, Performance Designs, Skydive Chicago, SSK Industries and Sun Path Products sponsored the boogie and donated plentiful raffle prizes so that most participants received one.

Plans are already in the works for the 2023 Skydivers Supporting Sobriety boogie, which is projected to draw even more SSS group members and sober-curious skydivers together. More information or support is available by visiting the very welcoming Skydivers Supporting Sobriety group page on Facebook.

Adrian VanKeuren | B-54905
Paris, Virginia


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