Meet Lauren Piscatelli, (or as we like to call her, “LP”). LP is a mother of two and woman skydiver who happens to be one of the most incredible flyers and hard workers at Skydive Carolina. She’s passionate about human flight and capturing the experiences of our first-time guests. She routinely wears a beautiful smile and often tears up when learning about the lives of the people she’s filming. She’s got a big heart and is routinely mentioned in reviews from our customers because of how she makes people feel. What many don’t know is her incredible story of survival which includes a tale of divorce, becoming a single mother and the loss of every dollar she’s ever saved.
Lauren married at the tender age of 19, and she quickly found herself as a stay-at-home mother of two wonderful children. She was a quiet and shy gal, and loved her life as a mother. However, there was an aching in her soul for adventure, so she mustered up a ¼ Life Bucket List that included:
As this list materialized, her marriage started to unravel – she was 26. Her still husband knew about her list and surprised her by asking if she wanted to go skydiving. And they did, right here at Skydive Carolina. And again for a second tandem skydive.
She couldn’t fathom continuing to skydive. She heard and read awful articles, stories, and rumors. Family and friends would warn her of the dangers and called her selfish. She was even unfriended. However, her experience at Skydive Carolina started to outweigh the negative connotations associated with skydiving. She saw something incredibly different during her jumps – she felt safe.
“I bought another tandem skydive for us,” her husband said, surprising her again. She was incredibly conflicted with her marriage ending, what to think about the offer to skydiving again, and to her amazement, she replied, “I want to do this for me and go through the program by myself.”
The plane ascended to altitude with her inside, wearing her own equipment having spent hours in ground school to prepare for this moment. Her palms sweated, mind raced, and fear consumed her. She was terrified, thought about her children, but somehow collected herself enough to jump out.
The next few days the thoughts of skydiving consumed her. Lauren experienced nightmares, reliving the fear. She was engulfed in the looping thoughts of fear and joy. This became a defining moment as she realized that it was now about controlling the fear. She went back to do another solo jump. In less than three months, Lauren went from zero to A-licensed and she hasn’t slowed down.
Lauren overcame a huge hurdle in skydiving. She conquered the fear and wasn’t embarrassed to learn. During any moments of struggle, like learning to better fly her parachute, she used that as fuel to motivate her to push through. She continued going to skydiving camps (canopy, angle, freefly… anything!), flying in the wind tunnel and doing whatever it took to progress her skills in the different disciplines skydiving had to offer. She was also working as a part-time videographer for Xtreme Media at Skydive Carolina.
Lauren found a balance of spending time with her children and her new sport that filled the void of craving adventure. In 2015 she went to her first Nationals in Mixed Formation Skydiving (MFS) with her all-female team, Carolina Chaos. The experience proved hard to juggle schedules, finances, and each person has slightly different goals. However, the team did whatever it took to make it to the competition. The women placed last, however, the silver lining was that they – as an all-female skydiving team – set an Arizona State and National record by completing the most points as they were the first-ever all women’s team to compete in the discipline!
In 2016, the team dealt with teammate changes and battled challenges of cutaways and finances. They saw skill improvement but still placed last at Nationals. But for Lauren, it was all about improving her skills and learning.
As her team was going through its own growing pains, her life took a startling twist. Over the years, she had invested all of her money with a longtime trusted broker. At the end of 2016, she woke to the news that her financial advisor had taken his own life because he was involved in a Ponzi scheme – meaning – he spent everything Lauren invested and she had nothing left.
Lauren thought of her children and quickly strategized how she would be able to provide for them and support herself. She went to the dropzone and spoke with the manager asking if there was anything she could do for work.
Xtreme Media was also busy and started to put her in a full-time rotation. She quickly had to overcome her shyness and hustled as much video work by doing specs and jumped on the packing mat to help out the packers. She did whatever she could to make money. “Skydive Carolina and everyone at Xtreme Media has been extremely gracious,” she recalls. “Jorge and Sandy have been so supportive. The skydiving community really opened up and saw what people mean when they call skydivers, ‘family’.”
Becoming a full-time skydiving camera flyer wasn’t part of Lauren’s plan. The initial shock of her life taking an unexpected turn has worn off, but the fight is far from over. Her schedule with her kids had to change. She now brings her children to work, who are now 11 and 13. Her daughter has been given an opportunity to help at Dale’s Dive-In café and picking up jumpers. She feels so fortunate that her children love being around the dropzone.
Lauren has embraced her role as a camera flyer filming tandem students. She’s incredibly passionate taking her responsibilities with pride and helping offer students the best experience. When some days are hard, she looks at the reviews and it helps her put in in perspective that her influence helps her customers in a positive way. “I love the interaction and hearing their stories, but especially when I see their faces light up when they jump out of the plane!”
“2017 was set up to be an amazing year, but all of the sudden, everything stopped,” Lauren explains. “Goals became insignificant.” Lauren is still trudging through her financial crisis and she says, “Skydiving has taught me how to learn. Having lost all the money, I can see the bigger picture of lessons. Now 2018 is all about letting it all go, just get through the year, pay off debt, and to continue to live my life.”
At the Skydive Carolina year-end celebration, Lauren received the Iron Woman of the Year award. “I’ve learned to quit being hard on myself. And although my ‘set’ goals were put on hold, I can still look back at 2017 and see I accomplished so much.”
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