Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Meet Rick Collins - He's Facing Fears and Fighting Cancer in our Best Ever YOU Exclusive!
I found myself sitting at the edge of the open doorway of a perfectly good airplane, ready to throw myself into the vast void of open space from a heart-pounding 13,500 feet above Long Island. To put it gently, I’m not a great fan of heights.
How on earth had I gotten here?
It was by my own choice. I had wanted to do something to raise money for cancer research, and I felt strongly about it. I watched as two bright, beautiful, vibrant people very dear to me were diagnosed with cancer at barely 30 years old; one lost his valiant struggle while the other appears to have bravely battled and beaten the disease, at least for now. Earlier, when I was a teenager, my first cousin was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Donnie was a robust fitness enthusiast who first introduced me to bodybuilding, an endeavor that has been a big part of my life to this very day. But cancer ravaged his body and claimed his life at only 21 years old. Donnie and my two wonderful friends were highly fitness-minded and each was the picture of health before cancer came to call. They did nothing to deserve what they got. If cancer could happen to them, it could happen to anyone.
I understood the importance of funding research into improved cancer treatments and the search for a cure. I wanted to do something to make a difference. But doing something normal like a walkathon didn’t appeal to me. In addition to my gig as a partner in a well-known Long Island, New York law firm and a writer for various fitness magazines, I had just co-authored, with James Villepigue, Alpha Male Challenge, a self-improvement book dedicated to looking and feeling your very best (www.alphamalechallenge.com). A portion of the book is all about boosting your inner strength by facing your fears head on (I majored in psychology before going to law school). I’d pushed my own boundaries in many ways over the years, but I was ready to take things to the next level. I knew hurling myself out of a moving airplane for the first time was just the sort of extreme “alpha” challenge I needed.
In these hard economic times, asking folks to dig into their wallets – even for a bona fide charity like the American Cancer Society – is asking an awful lot. It was only fair that I would ask a lot from myself. I had to put my own “skin in the game,” so to speak. How could I do anything less?
The charity event was billed as my “Leap for Life” and was reported in the local news. The jump took place at Skydive Long Island in Calverton, in the company of top tandem instructor Rich Winstock and gutsy cameraman Marko Markovich. Without question, the scariest moment of the process was hanging my legs over the side of the open plane door and looking out over the topography of Suffolk County far below. My mouth was dry, my heart was pounding, my adrenaline was surging, but somehow it felt right to be there. As I launched out of the plane and into the great wide open, I knew that what I was doing would in some small way help to make a difference to people facing situations far scarier than mine. Of course, I also knew that skydiving statistics were in my favor, and I had total confidence in the awesome folks at Skydive Long Island. And I also knew that when I landed safely, I’d have survived a “bucket list” experience I’d never forget. What was the freefall at 120 miles per hour like? It’s hard to fully describe it in words. You can watch the whole thing for yourself at www.leapforlife.org.
My charity jump last year raised over $15,000 to fund cancer treatment research and services – surpassing my goal of one dollar per foot of the drop. It was such a success on so many levels that I’m doing it again this year, and this time I’m inviting the rest of the world to do it with me. You can experience the thrill of a lifetime – and help make a difference at the same time. If you’ve ever thought about skydiving and were waiting for just the right opportunity, the time is now. If you’ve ever wanted to put yourself to the test, the time has come. Whether you’re a first-timer or even an experienced skydiver, and wherever you are on this planet, you can jump at your local drop zone on the weekend of August 21st – 22nd, 2010 and be part of Global Leap for Life 2010 along with me and many others around the globe. You can set up your very own web page by going to www.leapforlife.org and clicking on the word “DIVE.” Then you’ll be able to accept donations from friends, family, neighbors and co-workers with all tax-deductable donations going directly to the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LiveSTRONG).
The August weekend is the anniversary of my cousin Donnie’s death and it’s so perfect that all Leap for Life donations this year will go to LiveSTRONG. Donnie died from testicular cancer back at a time when the survival rate was low and the death rate was high. Today, thanks to advances in medical research and improved treatment options, thing a have turned around and the death rate is low and the survival rate is high. Cyclist Lance Armstrong, the founder of LiveSTRONG, is himself a survivor of testicular cancer and it hasn’t stopped him from being one of the world’s greatest athletes. Psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” Skydiving helped me blast past my self-imposed limits, inspiring me to further explore ways to challenge and empower myself. Soon after my jump last year, I tested myself in a new capacity – endurance – by descending to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, camping at the bottom overnight, and making the uphill climb back out from predawn to afternoon the next day. I’ll continue to challenge myself in creative new ways to be, in Maslow’s terms, all I am “capable of being.”
You don’t have to challenge yourself through such extreme feats. Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Whatever you can do to step outside your comfort zone will put you on the journey to discovering previously unseen wonder and beauty both in the world outside and within yourself. We’re all capable of being so much more, of doing so much more than we give ourselves credit for. By empowering ourselves to the max, we can do more and be more for ourselves and for those we love. You can only know what you’re capable of by stepping up to the plate and taking a swing.
Rick Collins, JD, CSCS is a New York attorney, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, author and actor (www.rickcollins.com). For more information about the 2010 Global Leap for Life and how to get involved in this year’s global skydiving fundraiser, visit www.leapforlife.org.