Kanika Davis was grinning ear to ear in her red flight suit, her dark hair hidden beneath a black helmet and eyes behind heavy protective glasses.
The 33-year-old from Lynchburg watched as two flight instructors kept a tight grip on the first person in the wind tunnel, the three bobbing and spinning in mid-air.
Moments later, they exited the tunnel to a roar of applause. Davis grinned wider as she wheeled herself toward the clear cylinder.
It was her turn to feel weightless.
Davis, along with 23 others with spinal cord injuries, spent Saturday evening at Virginia Beach’s iFly Indoor Skydiving facility, where each took a turn to defy gravity.
The indoor skydiving attraction partnered with Determined2Heal, a Maryland-based nonprofit that aims to assist people with the transition to life with paralysis, to organize the outing.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever done,” said Jimmy Ludwick, who took the first flight. The 21-year-old from Maryland said now he feels prepared to try real skydiving.
Officials began planning the event a few months ago, and when Determined2Heal posted about it on social media, all the spots were filled, founder Josh Basile said.
“Indoor skydiving is one of those adventures where you have an excuse to get out of your chair,” the 31-year-old said. “It also gives people a new perspective. That’s something that people want to be adventurous enough to give it a try.”
Basile’s organization helps people connect with other members of the spinal cord injury community and offers information for caregivers and patients.
He created Determined2Heal 10 months after suffering a spinal cord injury in 2004. He was at a beach in Delaware when a wave slammed him into the ocean floor, leaving him paralyzed below the shoulders.