Eric Stratford Stephenson, known in the skydiving community as “tonto” (with a small “t”, a deliberate choice on his part), passed away in a swooping incident after an instructional jump with his Accelerated Freefall student on the sunny Sunday morning of October 28th, 2007. Eric was a dedicated skydiver, instructor, father of two daughters, and partner to Taya, a Raise the Sky founder. Taya started the tonto Boogie, a skydiving and charity event, to honor Eric’s spirit in 2008, on the first year anniversary of his death. A time for celebration of life and memory, the 2009 boogie took place at the Johannesburg Skydiving Club on October 3 and 4. The first official South African national wingsuit record, an 8-way, was verified by judges on site on Saturday, October 3rd. The South African Skydiving League (SASL) launched its first month of competition with great success. A great party followed, headlined by band Elusion and rounded out with a bonfire, lamb on the spit braai, and JSC’s infamous “buffalo milk”.
Funds raised in South Africa went directly to support the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg, to help orphaned and impoverished deaf children get the education they need from early childhood through high school. Contributions of food and and clothing also went to needy children, with baby clothes distributed to the Pastoral Centre Preschool and Creche in Soweto.