Local skydiver Marc McGahee, in the 12 o'clock position of the zero (above), celebrated his 40th birthday Aug. 10 with 40 jumps, plus one to grow on, not only to show he is 40 and fit, but to raise money for a good cause.
Photo by Dave Ryder

Flying High: Local man makes 41 jumps on big 4-0 birthday

BY PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

August 26, 2008 - Celebrating the big 4-0 is a landmark event for anyone. Some people want to commemorate the occasion by doing something lavish or even extreme, like say, jumping out of a plane.

Local resident Marc McGahee, however, took it one step - or rather - "40 leaps further, plus one to grow on." He made 41 skydives on Aug. 10, in celebration of his 40th birthday.

"A lot of people think that 40 is old," said McGahee, a banker of 14 years, employed the last three with Legacy Land Bank of Sulphur Springs. "I don't think it's old at all. I'm in better shape than most 25-year-olds."

The 1986 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School has been skydiving since 1991 and has over 1,200 jumps under his "pack" belt.

According to McGahee, he was a Division 1 All-American pole vaulter when he first became interested in the free falling sport.

"All those years, since the seventh grade, I had fought gravity (pole vaulting)," he recalled. "I was driving home from college across Arkansas and Oklahoma when I saw all these parachutes in the sky. I thought, 'Man, that looks neat.' And I realized gravity could be your friend."

Soon after that experience he took up the sport, and has since come to enjoy base jumping, as well.

Land jumps have included The Perrine Bridge, a 486-foot jump across the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho, and the New River Gorge Bridge, an 876-foot jump in Fayetteville, W. V.

The inspiration behind his birthday event was twofold, according to McGahee, who was also raising money and awareness for SCCADA, Sister Communities Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, which operates in the East Texas area. SCCADA's purpose is to provide a coordinated approach to the prevention, education and intervention of substance abuse through targeted programs and services delivered in school and community settings.

"I thought this was a great way to celebrate turning 40, while at the same time giving back to the community," he said.

By taking pledges, McGahee was able to raise approximately $4,000 to go towards SCCADA leadership camps for area children ages 10 to 12 years of age.

McGahee said he called the event 40/40 SCCADA, and it would not have been possible without the help of his pilot, Gary Haass, girlfriend, Cassi Rodriguez, the event coordinator for the entire process and packer, Sarah Todd, along with Monte Warren, Mark Warren and Wayne Davenport as ground crew.

"We were turning some jumps in seven minutes, but we averaged about eight minutes per jump," said McGahee, who explained the wheels were up at 6:30 a.m. and they were finished by 12:45 p.m. The whole day's event took six hours and 15 minutes, which included refueling the airplane twice.

"I can't stress enough how important my crew was," emphasized McGahee. "Without them this would not have been easy. I think Gary and Cassi actually worked harder than I did. I was just having fun while they did all the work. "Now I have to figure out what I will do for my 50th birthday, " he added. "That's a long way off, but if I'm still in good shape (or alive) it will be a dandy, I promise you that."

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