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Graul's worker takes a big leap

The minute Robert Zerance saw Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman go skydiving in the 2007 movie "The Bucket List," he knew he wanted to jump out of a plane, too.

Zerance, 34, a familiar face at Graul's Market in Hereford, where he helps load groceries into cars, loves to ride roller coasters. He's ridden every single one at Hershey Park, Six Flags, Kings Dominion and Disney World. He figured sky diving would simply be a different kind of thrill.

After his adventure was postponed twice because of bad weather, he did a tandem jump with instructor Jamie Sides from the Chambersburg Skydiving Center on Nov. 5.

"We jumped out at 14,000 feet and it was really great. I wasn't scared at all," he said. "It felt different from a roller coaster. I felt like a bird."

Soaring to new heights is nothing new to Zerance, who has neurological and physical difficulties following a 1981 accident. He was 4 when he was hit by a car in Baltimore and was in a coma for 21 days. Today, he walks with a limp and doesn't have full use of his left hand.

After his parents died, Zerance joined Penn-Mar Human Services in 1998. The Maryland Line nonprofit provides services for adults with mental and physical disabilities.

He lives in a Penn-Mar group home in Freeland and is driven to and from his job at Graul's by Gerry Neely, his house manager. Neely also drove Zerance to Chambersburg for his big jump.

"I'm not surprised Robert jumped," Neely said. "I've never seen him be fearful of anything."

Zerance trains regularly at So's Taekwondo in Hanover, Pa. where he earned a second-degree black belt last year and is in working on his third-degree.

"I've accomplished so much in my life," he said. "But I'm not done. I want to keep doing taekwondo and I definitely want to go skydiving again."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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