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How do you combine fine art and skydiving, you ask? Let us tell you a story about a boy.
A Wisconsin native, David Wheaton spent his early years splashing around in the ponds of Palmyra with his big brother. When he was about three years old, his father was presented with a new job opportunity at Sheboygan Memorial Hospital as the manager of the Respiratory/Cardio Department. His mother was offered a job as an ER nurse at the same hospital, so the family relocated to their new home. David went to elementary, middle and high school right there in Sheboygan.
When it was time to move away to school, David picked Madison (over a full-ride scholarship for soccer at a school in Minnesota) – and he’s never looked back. “It is such a lovely city,” he enthuses. “I stayed after my first year of college to go to summer school — my excuse was that I got more credits that way, but I really stayed because I loved it.”
He started school pursuing a Master of Fine Arts program. After the first year, he changed his major to Interior Design. “I was the only male in my class,” he notes. “And it was a pretty small class: around 30 students. That was an interesting dynamic. I certainly got used to it and it didn’t bother me. But it made it interesting for group projects and whatnot. I was generally the odd man out.”
It was in college that David had his first taste of skydiving free fall.
“We had a group outing to the WSC dropzone,” he remembers, “which is a wonderful thing Bo and Alex like to encourage — people hanging out [at the dropzone] and making a day out of it. That is exactly what we did. We had a group of at least a dozen people. We all went skydiving together — in tandems, of course, because we hadn’t gone before. That was my first skydive. I loved it.”
Soon after graduation, David got a call from his first major employer. They were specifically looking for a male interior designer. Suddenly, his uniqueness was a serious benefit. He nailed the interview and picked up an internship at the company while he finished up with school. He was hired on right away once he graduated and worked at that firm for 14 years.
As the years rolled on, David kept jumping. He did his level best to visit WSC at least once a year for a tandem. “It became a pleasant addiction,” he says.
One day — as luck would have it, at the same moment that David was considering changing things up in his life — WSC put up a post looking for parachute packers.
So, of course, he got crackin’. Last season, David started packing, learning under the affectionate wings of the talented WSC packing team. He loves the challenge, and the work/play combo balances out his weekday gig with a major local restaurant group. He’s planning a wedding this August. It’s a busy life, for sure, but David really enjoys the opportunity to expand as an athlete, as a professional, and as a person.
“All of the knowledge that is offered [at the Wisconsin Skydiving Center] is continual,” he says, “and that’s the best. Honestly, it’s one of the best things about it. Just having all of those knowledgeable people and jumpers there, with all of their really interesting different takes on things.”
Notably, David is also a musician. He’s a vocalist and a guitarist. He plays solo acts as well as gigs with his band, The Northern Hooks. (Sometimes he brings his guitar to one of the dropzone and serenades us. We love that.)
According to David, he has found his home here at the Wisconsin Skydiving Center — which is great, because we couldn’t love him more.
“There is such a positive energy here,” he smiles. “That’s the main thing, and that’s what I really feel people need in their lives. Being here is a constant reminder that, as Bo continually says, life doesn’t suck. This wonderful dropzone is a place where you can just let go with the purpose of knowing that you are doing this for a reason. And it is so encouraging to be in a place like that. There’s also a great sense of responsibility, and of safety, and of pride.”
“When the tandems come down,” he continues, “it’s amazing just to experience the excitement they have. And to know you can share that with them, and know how that feels.”
David’s a people person, as you can tell. He also really enjoys the social aspect of life on the dropzone: getting to know the new faces, for example.
“We have some new packers this year,” he explains, “and it’s a real treat, getting to know these people and their personal stories. The people who come here are always incredibly interesting and unique, and of course I love the core of the community that forms the base of the dropzone. It feels like family.”
Want to be part of it? David (along with the rest of us!) can’t wait to welcome you with open arms.
“Follow your soul,” he advises you. “Whether that means skydiving or pursuing some other element or activity in your life. Find what your ‘push’ is and what drives you – and definitely follow that. If you do choose to take the AFF route to do solo skydiving — or even if you are pushing yourself to do tandem skydiving — just know that it is a feeling of knowing that when you are falling through the sky, there is something bigger than you. That feeling wants to work alongside and enhance your life and the decisions you are going to make.”