THRILL-seeking hospice supporters hurtled through the clouds during an 'exhilarating' skydive.

The challenge saw fundraisers, including staff from Sobell House Hospice and Bridge House Care Home, collect a combined £5,000 in sponsorship.

Wind whipped their faces as they fell from 13,000 feet, before safely deploying their parachutes and sailing to the ground.

Chantelle Merrit, who jumped alongside workmate Katie Marshall, said: "Sobell is a wonderful hospice, and Katie and I were keen to find as many ways as possible to raise money for them this year.

"Throwing myself out of a plane wasn't exactly on my 'must do' list, but it was both terrifying and exhilarating."

The daring duo, from Didcot and Berinsfield respectively, both work as lifestyle coordinators at Bridge House in Abingdon.

It has championed Sobell House, at the Churchill Hospital in Headington, as its charity of the year and hopes to raise £10,000 for the hospice through various fundraising events.

Five residents from the home ventured out to witness the jump last week, which took place on Tuesday at a skydiving centre near Brackley.

Resident Jean Manthorpe, 87, said: "I would love to have done it myself and I think it's so brave of them. I was so pleased to be there to applaud them when they landed."

The Headington hospice itself was represented by Libby Aley, of Sobell's fundraising team, Sobell ambassador Natalia Baeva, and two managers of its charity shops: Judi Bolder of the Botley branch and Elaine Cummings of the Thame shop.

Geneve Buquing, a renal nurse from the Churchill Hospital, and Didcot resident Caroline O’Connor, whose husband died at Sobell, also took the leap of faith.

Miss Aley said: "It's not as scary as you'd think it would be, you don't have time to think about it.

"I wasn't nervous until about an hour before, when reality kicked in. I think we were feeding off each other's nerves, but it was exciting at the same time."

"It was amazing; it's really hard to describe the feeling because it's unlike anything else. You're just freefalling at mass speed then they pull the parachute and you're floating around. It's really surreal. I'd definitely do it again."

The group was inspired to skydive on the recommendation of RAF Falcons; a parachute display team based at RAF Brize Norton.

Personnel have been supporting Sobell all summer by bringing collection boxes for the hospice, as well as military charity RAFA, to their public displays.


The Oxford Mail launched an appeal last year to help raise funds for Sobell House and more than £4,000 has been collected so far.

The appeal aims to fund 100 days of care by raising £40,000 in generous donations from across the community.

To donate please text ‘OMSH 76’ and the amount to 70070 or visit