Fiona conquers her fear – and flies high

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HIGH-flying mum-of-two Fiona Wood overcame her fear of heights and took the plunge on a charity parachute jump - to help her brother.

The Brighouse-born businesswoman had a special reason for making the leap of faith. In 1988 her brother Martin Suffield, then 18, had his leg amputated below the knee after he was badly injured in a bomb blast in Andersontown, Northern Ireland, where he was serving with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

Seeing his suffering at first hand made Fiona determined to conquer her fears and join ‘Dragon’s Den’ entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne on the parachute jump in Wiltshire.

They were supporting the charity Pilgrim Bandits which helps badly-injured servicemen and funds vital research into the development of prosthetic limbs. The charity also aims to rebuild the confidence of servicemen by encouraging them to take part in adventure expeditions and personal challenges.

Fiona, a former pupil at Rastrick High School, said: “I’ve faced all sorts of challenges, raising children and starting my own business, but I’ve never done anything quite as mad as jumping out of a plane. I really don’t like heights and hate being in tall buildings but I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie and I was determined to do it.

“It was a surreal experience. After the first 45 seconds of freefall, when the parachute opened, I really relaxed and began to enjoy myself.”

Fiona said: “I was 13 when my brother was injured and it had a huge impact on me and the family.

“There was nothing like the Pilgrim Bandits around to help him when he was injured at the time but I’ve seen what help they have been to those in need. Now they are giving Martin advice on what kind of prosthetics are available - it’s great to have this kind of support.”

Also taking part in the jump 13,000 feet above Wiltshire was 26-year-old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, who was told he would never walk or talk again after receiving devastating injuries in Afghanistan in 2006. As a member of the Pilgrim Bandits, he has carried out many parachute jumps and expeditions.

“It was an honour to take part alongside Ben and other badly injured servicemen. I just thought, ‘Well, if they can do it, so can I’. They are an inspiration,” said Fiona.

Both of Fiona’s brothers, Martin and Justin, undertook parachute jumps when they were serving in the Forces. “I was proud to follow in my brother’s footsteps,” she said.

Fiona is in touch with Duncan Bannatyne through Twitter and he persuaded her to join him at Netheravon Airfield near Salisbury to attempt the parchute jump.

“I hadn’t met him before and I was a bit apprehensive because he has quite a formidable reputation but he was absolutely brilliant.

“He pledged to double the amount of sponsorship money we raised - which meant we achieved £30,000.”

Fiona, who lives in Cleckheaton, set up her own business, Naturally Cool Kids, in 2010 after winning £5,000 in a competition run by Barclays.

She developed a range of natural skincare and cold protection products for children after seeing the effect of chemical-based products on her son Finlay who suffered from chest and ear infections when he was younger.

Fiona launched the range in May at the Nursery Trade Show in Harrogate. Now retailer John Lewis has put in an order for the products and soon they will available to buy through Amazon.