It was a clear and breezy Thursday morning at Elings Park when the founders of Your Next Adventure, John and Heidi McMahon, looked on with great pleasure as several individuals affected by cancer soared over the hills overlooking Hendry’s Beach. Crowds of family and friends gathered and watched in awe as the nine brightly colored paragliders flew down the ocean side of Elings Park after a rigorous morning of training led by Eagle Paragliding instructors.
Your Next Adventure was inspired by a family friend of the McMahons, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and developed a passion for rock climbing, a challenge that helped her cope with the illness, face her fears, and become empowered in other areas of life. With this friend’s journey in mind, John and Heidi decided to start an organization that would allow people affected by cancer to participate, completely free of charge, in extreme sports like paragliding, tandem paragliding, and rock climbing.
The nonprofit organization gives adults affected by cancer the chance to face a challenge of their choosing, with the hope that confidence gained through extreme sports will translate to more difficult aspects of life. Teaming up with some of the most respected instructors and guides, the two have spent much of their free time in the last year creating Your Next Adventure. On May 12, the group paired up with Eagle Paragliding to host its first-ever event.
“Seeing it all come to life is a very surreal experience,” said John as he watched the paragliding students take off down the hill.
The participants spent the morning with Eagle instructors, who guided them through the process of inflating and controlling their wings on the ground and taught them the flight and landing sequences. Once the students mastered the technique, they were ready for their first flight. One by one, they took off down the hill and glided until they reached the bottom, where a van was stationed to drive them back to the top of the park for round two.
Dianna, who used to be athletic before her cancer treatment, said, “I went from not being able to walk to being able to fly.” Nikol, a first-time flier, said, “I’m bruised and sore and I haven’t felt this alive in ages.”
Eagle Paragliding, which is stationed at Elings Park, has been training paragliding students for over a decade. Instructors donated their day and services to Your Next Adventure, which hopes to host events for groups of 10 people every other month. Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer on or after their 18th birthday can enter their name on the waitlist for the next event.