The Day I Got To Know Seth Darnell
Updated: May 25
It had been 13 years since God gave me the vision to start 2 Miles of Smiles, and in the spring of 2019 I was ready to roll it out. However, there was 1 big obstacle in my way…..I didn’t know Seth’s last name and he needed to be a part of this story since he was my inspiration. Then the investigation began to find out his last name and story.
Everyone at the drop zone remembered Seth since he was one of their favorite tandem students because of his joyful personality, zest for life and contagious smile, plus you don’t have many skydivers wearing a prosthetic leg (he had lost it due to cancer). I thought surely someone would know his last name. Everyone knew he passed away in 2017, the year after I first saw him skydive, but no one knew his last name.
My 1st attempt was to contact Ernie Long, the tandem instructor that took Seth on both his skydives but he didn’t know his last name. Since every tandem skydiver has a log book to record each jump, I asked Ernie if he could look at his log books and see if he recorded Seth’s last name. Ernie said he never recorded last names. I still pressed Ernie to at least look and find the book for Labor Day weekend 2006; but he had over 20,000 jumps so there would be 100’s of book to look through to find that particular one.
So, I moved on to my 2nd attempt. I contacted the drop zone to see if they still had records back to 2006, however, the drop zone was Skydive Dallas when Seth jumped and it had been sold to Skydive Spaceland and all the records had been destroyed.
Then, I moved on to my 3rd attempt, social media, with a post to all skydivers at Skydive Spaceland and asked if anyone remembered Seth’s last name. No one did, but 1 person encouraged Ernie to look through his log books. A few hours later, Ernie sent me the following page from his log book, and luckily Seth signed his last name.
After searching the internet for a couple of hours, I had everything I needed to know about Seth. I found out he was even more of a remarkable young man than I even thought. I had his mother and father’s names and potential phone numbers but I didn’t want to call them out of the blue and say “hey, you don’t know me, but I saw your deceased son skydive 13 years ago and he inspired me to start a nonprofit.” I did find an image posted on the billboard for a local chiropractor, Randy Mask about Seth Darnell day in Azle. So, I started there to see if they could lead me to Seth’s parents. Of course when I called Randy, he was blown away that after all these years someone was asking about Seth. I discovered more about this remarkable young man and how, even though he was terminally ill, he wanted to give something back to the community and try to make a difference in the lives of others before his time was up. That is when he and Randy started “2010 United.” Seth worked on that nonprofit with Randy during his last days in the hospital.
To read more about Seth and his sprit to give back click here:
I asked Randy if he thought Seth’s parents would be willing to talk with me about my idea for a nonprofit in Seth’s honor. At that time, John and Denise Darnell were still working in Azle ISD, he as a basketball coach and she as a teacher. They were thrilled about the idea and asked Randy to give me their phone number.
In May, 2019, I first called John and Denise with my idea and they were so excited as I told them the vision God gave me as I watched their son skydive way back on 9-3-2006. I told them God planted the idea to start a nonprofit in Seth’s honor so other cancer patients could have the same joy filled day away from cancer that Seth had and gain empowerment from the thrill-seeking experience. We all cried as they shared stories of Seth and we talked more about my vision. John and Denise gave me their blessing to start 2 Miles of Smiles in Seth’s honor and we have become great friends since that first conversation. They were at our inaugural jump Labor Day Weekend, 8-31-2019, which coincided with Seth’s first jump 13 years earlier over Labor Day weekend.
I was invited to attend the annual Seth Darnell day on 7-20-19 and officially met John and Denise. I also met Randy Mask and lot of other friends from Azle that knew Seth and they shared stories of this remarkable young man.
I also met some of Seth’s best friends, one of them was Morgan Lane, who was a cancer survivor. We convinced her to skydive at our inaugural event on 8-31-2019 in Seth’s honor.
Since God had orchestrated a way for me to find out about the remarkable young man I saw skydive and was given the vision to start 2 Miles of Smiles, we have taken 108 people skydiving through our nonprofit. If you would like to donate in honor of Seth Darnell and help us continue serving more cancer patients and survivors with the same joy filled day that Seth had, click here.