Skydiving industry contributes to the Belizean economy
Posted: 07/03/2008 - 10:21 AM
Author: Trevor Vernon

Four years ago a skydiving fireman from San Diego, California, named Rich Grimm spearheaded the first annual "Boogie in Belize" skydiving experience right here in Belize on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

This past week, he and over 110 international skydivers wrapped up ten days of Boogie #4 in that town.

Before I continue I need to highlight the fact that he has not limited his jumps to those in San Pedro. Rich and his loyal colleagues have also jumped in Belize City at the Memorial Park in last year's September Celebrations on Independence Day. Belize City residents will recall his daredevil feats right here in town with a big Belize flag flying behind him.

When he came to look at Belize as a new venue, it was at the urging of the owners of Belizean Textiles, Andy Butchko and Antionette Loflin, both naturalized Belizeans. Andy and Antionette have been the key players in making the "Boogie in Belize" a reality. He is an avid jumper and his partner his biggest fan. Andy is a big supporter of the work of the Belize Defence Force's Air Wing, and often plays a supporting role whenever he can.

Only last week, Andy arranged for the Boogie organizers and participants to donate three cargo carrying parachutes to that unit of the BDF, without any fanfare or fancy ceremonies. These chutes are critical for air drops in disaster stricken areas, particularly during the fast approaching hurricane season. But not only have they made donations to the BDF; the group has made annual donations to various educational institutions in San Pedro in excess of $50,000 over the past four years. Part of the donations this year will be used to fund a summer camp on the island.

Moreover, the couple has been in the country for the past twenty years running their business in Belize City. They employ directly or indirectly over 15 people, mostly around the city. And they strongly encourage other Belizeans to participate in the jumps. So far, it's been mostly BDF personnel and the media that have taken up the offer.

The organizers of Boogie in Belize highlighted the fact that every year they spend, collectively, in excess of a quarter million US dollars on hotels, tours, inland visits, and restaurants over the 10-day period, and that their activities are all very environmentally friendly.

Grimm says he tries to leave the place better than he found it, and is looking forward to Boogie #5 next year in Belize.

Live and let live