Canopies for Kids jumps at the chance to help kids
Matt Kuikman (bottom), co-founder of of Canopies for Kids, skydives with a teddy bear attached to his gear. The bear will be given to a child at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. | Courtesy of Matt Kuikman
Names: Taryn McKay and Matt Kuikman
Helping: Kids in the hospital
How they help: Skydiving
Updated: June 29, 2012 9:37AM
It was a big step from a college dance marathon to sky diving for Matt Kuikman.
But with the help of a longtime acquaintance, a new project was born to provide kids at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago with some support, courage and hope.
Canopies for Kids got off the ground in April, run by Kuikman and Taryn McKay, both 2003 Hinsdale Central graduates. The two grew up in Clarendon Hills and met at age 5 while attending Walker School.
“We knew each other, but were more acquaintances than really friends,” McKay said.
After high school graduation, McKay headed to Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and Kuikman headed to Indiana University.
“We reconnected through a mutual friend,” McKay said.
“She started telling me about how she goes sky diving, which I thought was very cool,” Kuikman added.
Something else Kuikman thought was “very cool” was an experience at Indiana University. During his junior year, Kuikman participated in the Indiana University Dance Marathon, a 36-hour event that benefits the Riley Hospital for Children.
“It really resonated with me when I did the dance marathon in college, and I wanted to do something now to help children in the hospital,” Kuikman said. He and McKay came up with Canopies for Kids, which combines supporting children in the hospital and sky diving.
Canopies for Kids provides participating sky divers at Skydive Midwest in Sturtevant, Wis., with special stuffed teddy bears to take along on their sky dives. The bears go to sick kids at Children’s Memorial Hospital.
“We wanted to do something where the kids could actually feel the impact,” McKay said. “It’s wonderful when people donate money, but it’s difficult for kids to really relate to that. Instead, we give them these bears that were ‘brave enough’ to sky dive. The hope is that the bears will help provide kids with courage.”
Each bear comes with a card containing a personal message from the sky diver. A minimum $5 donation is made to Children’s Memorial Hospital with each Canopies for Kids sky dive.
McKay experienced her first sky dive July 4, 2007 and has made several jumps since. Kuikman has made three jumps, including the first several years ago, which helped spark the idea of using skydiving in a charitable project. After several months of planning, McKay and Kuikman launched the Canopies for Kids program April 7 by taking bears with them on jumps. They have arrangements with Children’s Memorial Hospital to deliver teddy bears used on sky dives and expected to deliver the first 20 bears any time.
“We both feel really good about this because it’s to help kids,” Kuikman said. “It’s funny, too, how it worked out with the two of us reconnecting. We’re definitely closer now then we ever were before.”
For more information about Canopies for Kids, go to www.canopiesforkids.com.