A grandmother of six celebrated her 80th birthday in style – by jumping out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air.

Jillian Harding, of Somerville Drive in Bicester, opted to celebrate her landmark birthday on June 22 by completing a skydive in aid of Oxford University NHS Trust.

The grandmother participated in the extreme activity as part of the Oxford Hospital Charity’s Big Hospital Skydive on Thursday (June 16), aiming to raise £1,000 for the hospital.

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The skydive, it turns out, also marked two other milestones.

Mrs Harding’s birthday coincided with her 80th blood donation, which she made at the Radcliffe hospital’s Blood and Transplant Centre on June 7, and she is also now officially the oldest person ever to skydive at the Hinton Skydiving Centre.

Oxford Mail: The grandmother jumped from a height of 13,500ftThe grandmother jumped from a height of 13,500ft

She said: “Instead of the usual tea-party or blow-out at a posh restaurant I felt the need to do something a little different to mark these - for me - momentous events, and at the same time do something to help the Oxford University NHS Trust.

“In 2008 I abseiled down the side of the Radcliffe’s Women’s Centre, which gave me a taste for fund-raising ‘adventures’.

“So when I saw the advertisement for the Big Hospital Skydive in the trust’s Torch newsletter, I thought ‘what better way to celebrate my birthday and at the same time help give something back to our wonderful hospitals?’”

“The skydive was a wonderful adventurous experience,” she added.  

Oxford Mail: Mrs Harding got a taste for adventurous charity fundraising in 2008 Mrs Harding got a taste for adventurous charity fundraising in 2008

Mrs Harding made the jump firmly clipped onto instructor Stuart Meacode, who complimented the daredevil on her calmness and “faultless compliance with his instructions”.

Mrs Harding wanted to raise money for the NHS Trust as it has been “there for my family over the forty years”.

She says her husband, Brian, received “outstanding” care at both the Churchill and the Radcliffe hospitals since his first cancer diagnosis in 2002.

As well as this, Mrs Harding herself had several procedures at Radcliffe’s Oxford Eye Hospital relating to her cataracts and glaucoma, all six of her grandchildren were born in the Radcliffe’s Women’s Centre and several of them have since received in-patient treatment in the Children’s hospital.

Oxford Mail: Mrs Harding aimed to raise at least £1,000 for Oxford University Hospitals NHS TrustMrs Harding aimed to raise at least £1,000 for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust

“Today the children are – variously – enthusiastic members of local rugby, running, cycling, horse-riding, dance and gymnastic clubs, so I’m afraid they’re no strangers to the insides of the Radcliffe and Horton A&E departments,” she explained.

While Mrs Harding’s Just Giving.com page has reached its £1,000 target, it is still open for donations.

Donate here: justgiving.com/Jillian-Harding


Read more from this author

This story was written by Sophie Perry. She joined the team in 2021 as a digital reporter.

You can get in touch with her by emailing: sophie.perry@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @itssophieperry

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