PUkenas to skydive

Southport Alderman Rick Pukenas to skydive to help raise money for cancer treatment.

As prominent officials, aldermen are often spotted at city meetings and community events, but rarely are they seen falling from the sky.

Yet, alderman Rick Pukenas has agreed to jump from an airplane if the community can raise $5,000 for a two-year-old boy’s cancer treatment.

Kyle Scott Ward of Ash, N.C. was diagnosed earlier this month with Wilms tumor, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children.

In a public comment to the board at their October meeting, Jeff Holmstock, marketing and events coordinator at Skydive Coastal Carolina, told Kyle’s story with the boy’s grandmother at his side.

He then asked the aldermen: “Who’s going to help me jump for Kyle?”

Pukenas raised his hand. It’s a cause he feels strongly about, having been struck by cancer in his 50s.

“I had a hard time processing that, so I can’t imagine a two-year-old having to go through this,” he said.

Kyle’s parents, Corvin Ward and Chris Daniel Ward, first took their son to the hospital Sept. 25 after noticing blood in his urine and a small bump on his stomach. Unalarmed by the lump, the doctors sent the family home with a UTI prescription.

But on Oct. 2, the bulge grew “abnormally big” in a matter of hours. The family went to a different hospital where the staff took blood and urine tests and did an ultrasound. It revealed a large mass on his kidney.

Almost immediately, Kyle was transferred to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. His parents were told the next morning he had Wilms tumor and needed immediate surgery to remove his left kidney.

While in the hospital, Corvin Ward created a GoFundMe page. She explained that just days before Kyle’s diagnosis, she was hit in her husband’s work truck by a driver running a red light. A few days later, their dog was attacked by a wild hog and had to undergo an $800 surgery.

“We are struggling to pay for parking every day, let alone being able to feed ourselves, but we need to be here with our son,” Corvin Ward wrote.

Holmstock came across the couple’s site on Facebook. He left a comment on the post and Corvin Ward called him shortly after to hear his idea.

“I was just so, so relieved that there are actually people that are willing to help,” she said. “With everything going on, it really was just a god sent.”

Kyle is home now, but soon he begins chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

The alderman will jump in early November if the Facebook Fundraiser "Falling for Kyle" reaches its goal.

As a pilot, Pukenas has been in plenty of airplanes, but jokes he’s never intentionally left one mid-air.

“To get the public to jump is one thing, but to get the pilot to jump … Their job is to stay with the airplane, so I was really surprised that he was willing to do this,” Holmstock said.

One hundred percent of the donations will go to Kyle’s family. Skydive Coastal Carolina is covering the cost of Pukenas’s jump and a catered lunch for the city officials.

As of Thursday, $4,984 had been raised.