Words by John Michelotti
The Linda Waz Foundation is a newly formed not-for-profit corporation (501(c)(3) status pending), created by skydivers in honor of and with the support of living skydiving legend Linda Wasilonski. It’s the first of its kind and came into existence originally to assist Linda, an instructor and mentor based in Gardiner, NY, who was diagnosed with lung cancer last winter. Given the nature of her treatments, when it was doubtful whether she would be able to support herself during her illness due to the physically demanding nature of her work as an AFF, tandem and winter ski instructor, some of Linda’s friends approached her about raising money on her behalf. Linda – being Linda – wanted to make their effort about more than just her situation. Although she continues to battle many medical and financial obstacles that her illness has placed in front of her, she instead saw a way for her illness to help others, and we saw a way for Linda to inspire even more people than she already has.
With her support and blessing, The Linda Waz Foundation, Inc., was formed as an organization dedicated to skydivers helping skydivers. Its aim is to provide financial assistance to professional skydivers struggling with catastrophic injury and illness, and to also help the larger skydiving and greater public communities by providing training and education on a variety of topics which are designed to teach participants how avoid the financial crisis and burden on our greater community that a serious injury or illness can trigger.
The Linda Waz Foundation, Inc. will be kicking off its first major fundraising event at the Waz Up!! Boogie at the Blue Sky Ranch in Gardiner, NY on June 6-8, 2014, to celebrate Linda, to honor and raise funds to assist her and others who are fighting the good fight.
The Waz Up!! Boogie will feature multiple Twin Otters, a Caravan, load organizing in multiple disciplines (belly, freefly, wingsuit, and more), entertainment, raffles, a Friday night accuracy comp, parties, silent auction, freebies, food, beer, industry vendors & demos, and of course, the amazing Ranch vibe. If you’ve never been to the Ranch, you can’t go on missing out. Get your butt to the boogie, pitch a tent in the woods and get ready to throw down Ranch-style. Confirmed organizers include: John Skinner, Francesco Cippilone, Jeremy Price, Kim Emerson, Yan Wolfson, and more!
About Linda Wasilonski
Linda is a legend in the sport of skydiving. Not through competitions or as a YouTube sensation, but through touching the lives of thousands of students ant licensed skydivers alike. Petrified of airplanes as a child, the daughter of an US Admiral, Linda learned early on how to be loving but at the same time demanding. She spent her young life as a classically trained ballerina who started on Broadway in the musical Cats. After two years on Broadway, she went on to teach.
After a time, curiosity over “what type of wacko” would jump out of an airplane drove her to Ellingville, CT in 1981. She was told that as long as she didn’t jump she would get her money back, so she sat through class and took the plane rides from time to time…and get her money back.. One day an instructor was able to coax her to the door and with a little bit of tough love she made that jump. It was a problem because it cost her car payment.
We owe a lot of thanks to that instructor because he kicked off an astounding 30+ year career in skydiving that has touched more skydivers in the world than we can imagine. Having logged over 13,000+ jumps, including 9000 AFF levels + 500 tandems , Linda has been a part of 14 world records including the first ever Women’s 32-way. It is estimated that she has trained over 6,000 AFF students, which would be roughly 10% of all the USPA registered skydivers.
In 1984 Linda jumped into the 1984 Olympics as part of the blue ring. In 1988 she starred in a Sprite ad with theme, “feels so good going down”.
Her single greatest dropzone accomplishment was raising her daughter Danielle, who recently graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a teaching degree. As a dropzone mom, while doing AFF, Linda would watch for the bus school bus from the air. And if it was on its way, then under canopy she would dock on her partner AFF instructor and discuss the jump on the way down, so that she could meet Danielle at the bus stop while making sure the student was properly debriefed!
This amazing woman, mother, instructor, rigger, and instructor examiner has influenced and saved so many skydivers with her passion, dedication and constant injection of humanity into our sport, and it is ultimate truth when jumpers at the Ranch say that most of us wouldn’t be where we are today if not for jump-mama Linda Waz.
For more information about the event as it develops, like the Waz Up!! Boogie on Facebook, by following the Linda Waz Foundation, Inc. page. If you’re not able to make it to the boogie but would like to support the cause by making a donation, you can do so through PayPal.com (firstname.lastname@example.org)