86-year-old's skydive puts at risk youth in spotlight
SOMETIMES it takes an 86-year-old bloke jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet to get your attention to what really matters.
Bob Sherwell has been around long enough to know that spending a little time and money now on at risk kids makes far more sense than having to spend millions later on jail and rehabilitation after they fall off the edge.
It was a philosophy his son-in-law Allan Taylor, a pioneering school chaplain, believed in passionately before his tragic death seven years ago.
Allan and wife Kari Taylor, a dance teacher, were legendary on the Coast for changing the lives of young people.
In August 2009, they were struck and killed after they had stopped to help their daughter Ashleah, after her car broke down on the Sunshine Motorway.
On Friday, Bob and Ashleah skydived together to raise money for Al Taylor for Kids' The Potential Project.
It was Bob's second skydive (he did one when he was 70) - and Ashleah's first.
Bob told the Daily the 65 metre freefall was exhilarating, though a little hard on his ageing ears.
The special connection he shares with his granddaughter was made even more so when they were able to join hands high above Caloundra.
"I am just so pleased I jumped with my granddaughter,'' Bob said.
"She is going to jump again, she reckons. She thoroughly enjoyed it.''
Sunshine Coast Skydivers have invited Bob to come back and dive again on his 90th. "If I'm around at 90 and I'm capable I will probably do it again.''
His next quest, however, will be raising money for Al Taylor for Kids by doing the 10km run in the Sunshine Coast Marathon.
Ultimately, Bob hopes the federal government might see the economic sense in funding work with at risk kids through a national program.
He said the foundation was doing such great work they were now being contacted directly by principals seeking help with at risk youth, who would otherwise face expulsion from school.
"They are catching them before they go over the edge. There are some absolutely marvelous things happening,'' Bob said.
"I can see this, if properly handled, becoming a nationwide program that the government will be paying these guys to do because it will save them million and millions of dollars (in the long term).
He said the program was about teaching young people, who may have come from difficult family backgrounds, basic life principles.
"We are not talking about religion here, we are talking about ordinary, everyday values.''
He said he believed every young people deserved the chance to realise their potential, regardless of the mistakes they had made in life.
"Just because a kid makes a mistake they should not have to pay for it for the rest of their lives.''
Close to $5000 has already been contributed around Friday's skydive.
Donations can still be made at https://www.chuffed.org/ project/potentialproject.