Updated: 06/22/2014 11:00 PM
Created: 06/22/2014 9:03 PM KAALtv.com
By: Hannah Tran
(ABC 6 News) -- 13,000 feet. It's hard to picture how high up that is, but around 80 Rochester area residents got a pretty good idea of what that looks like. Seeking a thrill was not the sole reason that they jumped off a plane with professional skydivers. They’re family and friends with someone who has autism.
Skydiving for Autism, an annual event, took place at Willow Creek Golf Course and Rochester airport on Sunday.
Within each pair of skydivers seen jumping off a plane with parachutes on Sunday morning, looking like little dots from below at first, is one professional diver and more often than not, a nervous first-timer taking a nosedive towards the ground for more than just a thrill.
"It's always neat to see what everybody else is doing it for," said Joe Johnson, owner of Westside Skydivers, a Minnesota-based group of professionals who helped assist the Rochester divers. They're skydiving for autism, whether it's affecting someone's mother, father, or son.
Joseph Clark, a Kasson resident who signed up to skydive to raise money autism awareness, has one main person on his mind when he dives from the clouds above.
"I do think about my son and I do think about how RTAF has helped our son," he said.
Clark's son Charlie has autism. Together with his wife, Jill, they brought Charlie along to watch their descent, using his spirit to brave the dive.
"He's a very loving, very caring, loves to make you laugh, loves to be the center of attention," said Charlie's mother, Jill.
It's the fourth year for skydiving for autism and it has especially grown this year.
"It's amazing, everyone knows someone who has autism, whether it's their son or their daughter or niece or nephew," said Stephanie Schmidt, a board member of RT Autism Awareness Foundation.
A child with autism can give a family a unique sense of strength. For Jill Clark, the first person that she hugged when she landed on the ground safely was her child, Charlie. 13,000 feet doesn't seem so bad if it leads to supporting someone you love.
RT Autism Awareness foundation in Rochester got pretty close to their $35,000 dollar goal. Each participant had to raise at least $350 dollars for the cause before skydiving.