It was a sunny morning with clear, blue skies, and Charlotte Gallaway was gearing up for something she had always dreamed of doing — skydiving.
Gallaway, a 57-year-old retired veteran, fell in love with the idea of jumping out of a plane when she was in the Army. At her training post, she admired the airborne soldiers wearing berets and patches on their shoulders — and wanted to be one of them. Something discouraged her, though.
“When I found out how much they ran, I was like, ‘Ah, no. I’m not going to do that,’” Gallaway said. “But I’ve always wanted to jump out of a plane.”
In late May, Mariposa Point at Algodón Center, an assisted living facility in Phoenix where Gallaway lives, teamed up with Skydive Buckeye — a family-owned skydiving center located at 3000 S. Palo Verde Road — to grant Gallaway’s wish.
“Livin’ the Dream,” a program offered by Mariposa Point, worked out everything, said Misty Sandoval, executive director of Mariposa Point.
“‘Livin’ the Dream’ gives our residents the opportunity to do things that they’ve always wanted to do in their life but have never been able to do. Each quarter, we choose one of the residents. We get to know them really well and something that they’ve always wanted to do,” Sandoval said.
“We try to make that dream come true.”
The program signed Gallaway up for a tandem jump — one where she jumped from a plane at 10,500 feet with an instructor attached.
Gallaway, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) — a long-term disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves; characterized by electric-shock sensations, lack of coordination, vision problems and problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function — sees free falling from the sky as a liberating experience.
“I deal with a lot of pain because I have MS. I figured, ‘Well, if I’m in the air, maybe I can be free — and then I’ll be pain-free — at least for that moment and just kind of feel good,” Gallaway said.
Family and friends from Mariposa Point gathered at the sky diving center on May 30 to cheer Gallaway on. Trudy LaChapelle, who has known Gallaway for 15 years, traveled from Los Angeles to show her support.
“She’s an awesome woman of God. She’s been through so many challenges. Two years ago she lost her beloved husband and then she was diagnosed with different illnesses. But she’s come out strong and victorious,” LaChapelle said.
LaChapelle believes the skydive experience is a stepping stone to bigger things for Charlotte.
“I expect for her to come out just more encouraged — to look for the next challenge. This is just the beginning.”
Sandoval said Mariposa Point feels fortunate to have the resources to fulfill dreams like that one of Gallaway.
“It means everything. We’re very resident-centered, and we like to do everything for our residents individually. We really want to make sure each of our residents — whether it’s ‘Living the Dream’ or something they want to do on a day-to-day basis — is active, and they’re doing exactly what they want to do,” Sandoval said.
Gallaway is a prime example of that person-centered, exceptional care.
“I just thank God that I’m here. (The) place where I live is a wonderful place. I’m blessed to be here,” Gallaway said.
And to anyone with a dream, Gallaway encourages them to pursue what they love.
“Follow your dreams and never give up,” she said.