Falling for Kyle: Southport leader jumps from plane for 2-year-old battling cancer

Updated: Nov. 6, 2019 at 7:02 PM EST
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SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - Jumping out of a plane is the thrill of a lifetime for many people, but Southport Alderman Rick Pukenas skydived Wednesday with someone else’s life in mind.

Two-year-old Kyle Ward is battling a rare kidney cancer.

“Initially, we thought ‘maybe it’s a UTI,’" said Collin Vanderburg, Kyle’s uncle. "Then all of a sudden this mass swells up and we get news they’re on their way to the hospital and its cancer.”

Kyle has gone through over a month of radiation treatment but his family says that hasn’t stopped his smile from constantly appearing on his face.

“He’s just the life of the party and you would never know he’s sick right now and that’s probably the coolest thing with him," said Vanderburg.

Alderman Pukenas knows the story all too well, as he was diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago. That’s why making the jump wasn’t just a bucket list item, like it is for so many others. It’s personal.

“No one should have to go through that," said Pukenas. “The family and obviously Kyle. At 2 years old, he should be at home playing with his toys not going through this. I just felt like it was my turn to step up and do the right thing.”

Pukenas actually has a history with planes. He’s a pilot so he flies them all of the time, but the only time he’s ever gotten out of one before this week was when it’s been parked on the ground.

By jumping from the plane, Pukenas and company raised over $7,500 for Kyle and his family.

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