The Sky is Not the Limit: Best Friends with Rare Disease and Bucket List Go Skydiving

Susan Giftos and Hillary Rees are dreamers and doers. Over the course of a few years this has helped them become the best of friends.

“As long as I’m friends with Susan we’re going to be doing something new every time you turn around – every time we have the chance. We want to do big things and reach a lot of people,” says Hillary.

Susan and Hillary both have a rare neuromuscular disease called Charcot Marie Tooth — making walking and mobility difficult. This disease has given each of them their own challenges, whether that be in a wheelchair or homebound for 8 years. They worked through these difficulties together.

Their adventures started with adaptive skiing at Caberfae Peaks in Cadillac. They wanted to push themselves out of their comfort zones and try something new. This is where the idea of a bucket list came together.

Today, they are taking it to the next level. They are jumping out of a plane– Skydiving.

“It is risky and it’s daring and it’s adventurous. it’s something I can physically do which is just phenomenal,” says Susan.
Skydive Charlevoix has made this possible. Giving Susan and Hillary the full experience whether they’re able-bodied or in a wheelchair. “I think this is an opportunity for me to prove to myself that I can really do anything,” says Hillary.
Susan was homebound for eight years. Freedom and independence mean so much to her. So to have this experience comes full circle for her. “Fear is so overrated but it can stop you right in your tracks and it stopped me from doing so many things in the past,” says Susan.Today Susan is leaving behind her wheelchair and worries, even if it’s just for a few minutes. “You can get off the couch and you can dream these big things and you can make it happen,” says Susan.When it was time to jump out of the plane and have a fresh start, Susan was ready to shake herself up and make her feel alive once more. “As soon as that door opens you can’t believe that you’re going to jump out but before you even know it you really have time to think about it you’re already out the door,” says Susan.
On the ground waiting patiently for her was her best friend. Ready to celebrate with her when she safely landed on the ground. Hillary recalls, “the moment that I got to see Susan this tiny little speck of pepper plummet out of that plane. I started crying. I was filled with so much elation and pride and joy for what she was going through and then I was like crap that’s going to be me in a matter of minutes.”This friendship has pushed both of them to great heights. Giving them both the courage to leap right out of their comfort zones and a perfectly good plane! “I just jumped out of a plane and that means anything else is on the table. I can do anything,” says Hillary.
The sky is no longer the limit for these two…
“We just jumped out of a plane! We did it! What are we doing next?”
If you’re looking to skydive here in Northern Michigan, click here for Skydive Charlevoix.
Categories: the four