Yelling man to learn how to skydive for son’s charity

Derrick Mabbott, right, who is off to California to learn to skydive, with Dan McLellan.

Derrick Mabbott, right, who is off to California to learn to skydive, with Dan McLellan. - Credit: Archant

A Yelling man is undertaking an intensive course to qualify as a solo skydiver to raise money for Dan’s Hope, a muscular dystrophy charity.

The charity was set-up by Debra and James McLellan, the parents of six-year-old Dan, who has Ullrich muscular dystrophy, one of only 300 children in the world to suffer from the condition.

Family friend Derrick Mabbott, 50, who was widowed three years ago, will be travelling to a training centre in California run by an ex-British Paratrooper on Friday (June 12).

He will cover all the costs, so any money raised will go straight to the charity, which has already raised a total of £66,000.

Derrick (pictured with Dan) will have to complete 18 unassisted skydives to get his Class A certificate, which will qualify him to do solo jumps in the future.

“Dan is such a superb little guy,” said Derrick. “He has to have physio every day and his dad has given up work to look after him.

“It is humbling. He’s so brave, but sparky too. And I think if a six-year-old boy can cope with that…”

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Derrick’s first skydive will be when two instructors pull him out of a plane in the US at the start of the 10-day course.

They will initially accompany him, adjusting his body position as required, but as he does more jumps, there will be less and less assistance.

The warm predictable weather in California should allow him to make multiple jumps in a day.

James and Debra, from Hemingford Grey, set up the charity shortly after Dan was diagnosed in 2011. It funds research into the condition, which is degenerative and for which there is currently no cure.

Dad James is now a full-time carer, though Dan’s brother Charlie, eight, often helps.

“He’s equally extraordinary and, though it’s been challenging for him too, he doesn’t seem to mind that a lot of the time the focus is on Dan,” said Derrick.

Dan attends Kimbolton Preparatory School, where they have installed a stair climbing machine to get him ready for the stairs he’ll have to navigate to get to classes next year.

Derrick will be taking a two-and-a-half square metre muscular dystrophy flag made by Kimbolton World of Flags along with him, which he intends to have flying behind him when he does his first solo jump after qualifying.

To sponsor Derrick, text ULLR70 to 70070 to donate £10 or go to