Father Dan Kampschneider, in front, skydives with his tandem partner Davide Aug. 21 in Crete, Nebraska. COURTESY PHOTO


Omaha pastor takes a leap of faith

“Why not?”

That was Father Dan Kampschneider’s response last year when asked if he’d be willing to skydive from an airplane to help raise money for St. Vincent de Paul School in Omaha. 

“I enjoy flying and being up in there in the clouds but I had never skydived,” said Father Kampschneider, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish. “I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’” 

The opportunity to skydive with Father Kampschneider raised $10,000 during the oral auction at the parish’s SPREE fundraiser last October.

“The live auction committee came up with this idea for ‘A Leap of Faith with Father Dan,’” said SPREE live auction committee member Amber Jurgensmeier. “He was on board from the beginning. He just wanted more information. How many people would be jumping with him and would he have to be trained?” 

Jurgensmeier said the high bidders at the auction each agreed to pay $5,000 for a skydive package after Father Kampschneider said he’d be willing to make two jumps – one with each buyer. 

“It was such a big deal, it sold twice,” she said.

Katie and Rob Zimmerman underwrote the cost of the original package and the auction committee purchased the second to allow additional parishioners to participate, Jurgensmeier said.

Pictured before their jump are, from left, Father Kampschneider, Ashley Dieckman, Karen Wilmeth and Clark Horgan. COURTESY PHOTO

Father Kampschneider made the jump over the Crete, Nebraska, airport on Aug. 21 with three St. Vincent de Paul parishioners – Clark Horgan, Karen Wilmeth and Ashley Dieckman.  

Horgan was one of the buyers at the auction, along with Stacey and Roy Patterson, who allowed Wilmeth to do the skydive on their behalf. Dieckman was one of the SPREE chairs. 

“I’d never done it before and it just seemed like kind of a fun adventure and a good way to give to the school, all in one,” Horgan said. 

With three other participants, Father Kampschneider only had to jump out of the plane once on the day of the dive. He and Horgan were in the plane together and each made a tandem dive with a representative of the skydive company. A tandem skydive requires two people to jump out of an airplane together, strapped to one another during their descent. 

The skydive took place on a quiet Sunday afternoon with several friends and family members of the four St. Vincent de Paul skydivers in attendance to share in the experience and root on the skydivers.

Father Kampschneider said he was never nervous about jumping out of the plane. 

“It’s trust – in God, of course, and the people you’re with,” he said. 

He described the skydive as an “awesome experience.” 

“We got up into the clouds and 10,000 feet and I thought we’re nearly at the same altitude airplanes fly at,” he said.

“Then there’s a moment there when you go out of that plane and you think, ‘This is it, we’re going.’ From there, you just go straight down and fast, until the parachute opens. Then, you feel a jerk and it pulls you up for a few seconds. After that, you’re just floating. It was beautiful down there.

“I felt like I was flying like an eagle.” 

Horgan, who made his dive after Father Kampschneider, said he didn’t feel any anxiety until it was time to board the plane. 

“Getting on the plane was probably one of the most nerve-wracking pieces,” he said. “Then, when they opened the door for you to jump out, that was nerve-wracking, too. 

“Frankly, once I was on the plane, I knew the only way I was going to get out of the plane was to jump. I just kept telling myself, ‘Look, this is going to happen so just enjoy it and be in the moment.’” 

Enjoy it, he did – once that initial 30-second freefall was over. 

“Once they hit the chute, it’s very peaceful and not very scary at all,” Horgan said. “You’re just looking down at the ground, the houses, the farmland and everything else down there. It went faster than I thought it would and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.” 

Father Kampschneider and his tandem partner made their successful slide landing a few hundred yards away from the St. Vincent de Paul delegation. Horgan landed a couple minutes later. 

“They were still cheering him (Father Dan) on so my reception was very quiet,” Horgan quipped. 

Jurgensmeier said the skydive wasn’t the first time Father Kampschneider has done something special to help with the SPREE fundraiser.

“We’ll never be able to top that skydive,” she said. 

The 2022 SPREE fundraiser is set for Oct. 7. Two of the live auction items do involve Father Kampschneider, but are a bit more low key – wine tasting at a popular Italian restaurant in Omaha and a Mass at the Holy Family Shrine near Gretna.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Several weeks after Father Kampschneider’s jump, a skydiving accident occurred at the Crete Airport killing one person and seriously injuring another. Father Kampschneider asks readers to pray for the family of the person killed and the recovery of the injured party.

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