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Meet Trailblazer Sharon K. Bina

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharon K. Bina.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Sharon. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
On June 29, 2003 I went skydiving with a singles group and it changed my life forever.  Falling out of an airplane more than two miles in the air, only to touch down safely a few minutes later, gave me a feeling of empowerment and fearlessness I had never felt before.  A couple days later when the realization sunk in that I had jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, I was able to look at uncomfortable situations and say to myself ,  “If  I can jump of out an airplane, I can do anything,” which is exactly what I did when I ended up marrying my tandem instructor.

Then, on September 3, 2006, skydiving inspired my life. That was the day I witnessed Seth Darnell, an amazing young man, go skydiving on his 18th birthday. What made Seth remarkable was that he chose to live life to the fullest despite being a cancer patient and losing his right leg to osteosarcoma. As a cancer patient, Seth had already faced many fears, but when he landed from his jump, I saw an extraordinary joy and radiant smile on his face and recognized the renewal of strength and courage he experienced that day. At that moment, a vision emerged of what skydiving could do for other cancer patients and survivors.

Unfortunately, Seth passed away in July 2007 at the age of 19, but the vision he and God planted remained with me for 13 years and has now come to fruition with 2 Miles of Smiles, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is:

“Empowering cancer patients and survivors to find strength through skydiving, providing courage to live life fearlessly before, during or after treatment.”

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I started down the path of creating this nonprofit a couple of years after the vision came to me, but the task of establishing a nonprofit and even knowing how to legally obtain a name seemed like a daunting task. I was working full time and traveling with my job, so it was an easy excuse to say, “I’ll do it later.”

Fast-forward 13 years when I retired and the excuse of “I’ll do it later” was no longer valid. Even though God kept the vision on my mind all these years, it still seemed like an impossible task for someone with no experience in starting up a nonprofit. Luckily, I stumbled onto a nonprofit management class being held at Collin College. The instructors were wonderful with years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. They walked us through every aspect of starting a nonprofit, applying for grants, digital marketing, and board development. What I thought would be the biggest challenge has been the easiest part to date.

Since I did not grow up in the digital era, the biggest challenge has been social media, including building the web site, and understanding how Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram work for business accounts. However, I was not going to let it get the best of me so I dedicated time to learning. Even though this has been a challenge, I’ve been able to grow as an individual by learning new skills, which is important when you’re retired so your mind can stay active. For other ladies starting a business or nonprofit, you’ll go through these tough times of learning where you think, “I will never understand this,” but remember, every expert was once a beginner.

Is there an obstacle when asking someone to go skydiving?
What would your response be if someone said, “Hey, let’s go skydiving.” The comment we hear is, “I’m afraid of heights so I would never skydive.” However, that is the mission of 2 Miles of Smiles, facing a fear and then overcoming it. Once you’ve gone skydiving, courage emerges that you never thought possible. For those living with cancer, having this newfound courage helps them deal with another fear, living life as a cancer patient or survivor with its uncertainties.

Please tell us about 2 Miles of Smiles – what should we know?
We are a nonprofit organization created to empower cancer patients and survivors with a skydiving experience. We give those living with cancer this extraordinary experience that brings them courage and confidence.

Why do we offer a skydiving experience to cancer patients and survivors? Because it is one of the most empowering things a person can do to have victory over fear. Falling out of a perfectly good airplane more than two miles in the air and majestically descending to the ground can be life-changing for those looking for optimism and hope amidst the challenging circumstances in facing cancer. After skydiving, cancer patients and survivors walk away from the experience with strength and courage as they deal with the fear of living life as a cancer patient or survivor with its uncertainties.

What sets you apart from cancer support groups?
With approximately 40% of Americans being diagnosed with cancer at some point during their life, we are the only nonprofit that empowers cancer patients and survivors with an incredible experience where they can face a fear and overcome it, and once they do, life is never the same. Then they wonder, “what other fears have I been avoiding that I can now face and conquer?”

One of our greatest rewards is when we see the smiling faces of our recipients during an event and know they are having an incredible experience in which they can forget about cancer, enjoy the day, and live life in the moment.

Here is what some of our recipients had to say about their experience:
• “An amazing experience.” “What a wonderful way to embrace life.”
Deana Albrecht
• “You gave me the chance to face my fears and show cancer that it does not define me.” Morgan Moore
• “Hands down, one of the most empowering things you’ll ever do.”
Heath Lasater
• “Absolutely unforgettable.”
Carol Casmus
• “I soared in the heavens, in pure freedom and in the safe hands of God.”
Lisa Dunn
• “This was so awesome, if you ever get the chance to do this never turn it down; it will change your perspective on life. If you can conquer the fear of this, you can conquer anything!!!”
Steve Lasater

What has been your greatest accomplishment since starting this nonprofit?
In May 2019 when I officially started 2 Miles of Smiles, it was important that I take the first cancer survivors skydiving Labor Day weekend to commemorate the same weekend 13 year prior when I witnessed Seth Darnell go skydiving. With the help of many supporters we made it happen, and Labor Day weekend 2019 we held our first event with 19 people skydiving, including 5 cancer patients and 1 survivor. An aspect to the nonprofit that I hadn’t anticipated was when 13 of our friends decided to skydive and jumped in honor or memory of a loved one afflicted with cancer. Each of them smiled as they honored their loved ones while they touched the sky.

There were 20+ spectators to support and cheer us on. I was especially grateful that John and Denise Darnell, Seth’s parents, were supportive and attended our first event. Until a few months ago, they had no idea that their son, who passed away in 2007, had inspired me, so it was a privilege when I received their blessing to start this nonprofit in Seth’s honor.

I was part of the group that went skydiving at our inaugural event and I dedicated my skydive to Seth. We never met, but he touched my life with his smile and zest for life. One day, when we are both by God’s side, I look forward to telling him how he brought purpose to my life.

What advice would you give to other females looking to make a difference?
Even though God may give you a vision for your purpose in life, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t act on it immediately. Just know that God’s timing is perfect, and he is using the extra time to prepare you for your new adventure. If I had of started this journey 13 years ago, I wouldn’t have had the time, resources, experience or the depth to my faith to make it a reality. Back then, it would have been “all about me” and “look what I did.” Now that my faith has matured, I realize that God is the one in charge and providing what I need. How do I know that? Because when I get discouraged he always puts someone in my path or creates a situation that provides me with encouragement to continue moving forward.

You can inspire someone just by being you, so live your life to the fullest, put passion into everything you do, always be kind and wear a smile on your face. You may never realize it, just like Seth and his parents had no idea how much he inspired me, but you too could be an inspiration to someone without even knowing it.

If someone reading this wanted to go skydiving what would they do?
If you are a cancer patient or survivor or know of someone who is and would like to go skydiving with 2 Miles of Smiles, apply online at our web site.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Bill Dawson “Skydive Spaceland-Dallas”

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