Meredith Ottery poses in her homemade mask, one of the many she has crafted since the start of the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has rocked everyday life for people around the world, requiring most to shift their regular routines and forcing others out of work completely. COVID-19—a word that is now a part of our daily vocabulary—has also been the catalyst for the skydiving industry to shine, as riggers and other skydivers quickly pivoted their efforts to producing resources that can protect essential workers, first-responders and communities. As the need arose for the world to arm itself with personal protective equipment to reduce the transmission of the virus, USPA members—from jumpsuit manufacturers to master riggers to fun jumpers—quickly went to work sewing hundreds of thousands of masks, some even sharing the template for others to do the same.
Meredith Ottery, a senior rigger at United Parachute Technologies, immediately started sewing masks, sourcing materials from manufacturers, skydivers, her local running groups and even random folks who just wanted to help. John Kieren and the team at The Ranch Pro Shop rallied with a short video tutorial on making masks, sharing it across social media for anyone with a sewing machine to follow. Even those without sewing skills contributed. USPA Tandem Instructor and PRO-rating holder Stephen Hatzistefanidis raised more than $10,000 to purchase and distribute masks directly to first responders and medical professionals in his hometown of New York City.
USPA Vice President Sherry Butcher is impressed but not surprised by the skydiving community’s ability to acclimate, saying, “Although all skydivers miss being in the sky, for many of our riggers across the nation, being grounded has proven to be a silver lining in this crazy time. These stories are a testimony that skydivers are amazing people who quickly rose to the occasion, cumulatively making thousands of masks for their communities and medical professionals.”
The skydiving community’s ability to rapidly innovate in response to this health crisis is the perfect representation of our unique sport and is evidence that our industry will adapt and continue to thrive. Butcher praised those who helped, saying, “USPA could not be prouder to call you members, not only of our association but of our skydiving family! Thank you all for your hard work and commitment!”