Gov. Daugaard to skydive for charity (updated)

Politicians may be used to seeing their poll numbers take sudden drops, but Gov. Dennis Daugaard will take a much more literal plunge later this summer when he jumps out of an airplane for charity.

The governor has agreed to skydive if the Madison Dairy Queen restaurant sells 32,000 Blizzard treats on the Aug. 8 Miracle Treat Day.

That’s a slight increase on the restaurant’s 31,351 total sales last year. For seven consecutive years DeLon Mork’s Dairy Queen has topped its steadily rising sales goals. All proceeds from the event go to the Children’s Miracle Network, which has received nearly $250,000 just from Madison’s Dairy Queen over the years.

Daugaard has never jumped out of an airplane, or even so much as bungee-jumped.

"I’m sure there will be a little bit of fear as I step out onto the wing or whatever you do," Daugaard said Friday.

But he’s not very concerned. The jump will be a tandem-jump, with the governor strapped to an experience parachutist.

"It seems risky, but really, when it’s done properly, especially in a tandem dive situation where you’ve got an experienced, supervised situation, it’s really no more dangerous than driving a car or a motorcycle," Daugaard said.

Last year, 19 people died in the U.S. out of around 3.1 million total jumps, according to data kept by the United States Parachute Association.

"I think people think it’s more dangerous than it is," said Nancy Koreen, a spokesperson for USPA. "We have a lot of training programs in place to make the sport as safe as possible and minimize the inherent risks of jumping out of an airplane."

Miracle Treat Day has become a sensation for the Madison Dairy Queen. The small-town restaurant routinely posts the highest sales of any Dairy Queen in the country on the day of the fundraiser. There are also concerts and other events associated with the fundraiser, which Mork said has become a point of civic pride.

It’s come a long way since 2006, when Mork offered to shave his head in the store if they sold 1,000 Blizzards — then did the deed when the actual total ended up near 4,000.

He’s skydived himself, bringing along the Madison police chief and several long-time employees.

"Daunting doesn’t cover it," said Mork, who said that unlike Daugaard, he’s afraid of heights.

Mork said he’s known Daugaard for a number of years, and thought of asking the governor when thinking of ways to top last year’s festivities.

"As we try to think about ways to elevate what we’re doing and raise more money for Children’s Miracle Network, the skydive seems to be a great avenue to do that, because it involves our whole community and gets people excited," Mork said.

UPDATE: Though some outlets have reported that Daugaard’s jump will occur on Aug. 15, the governor told me today he hasn’t fixed a date yet.