Key Biscayne resident Judy Reinach has always had an adventurous streak, and she’s putting it into action once again to benefit an organization that has saved the lives of countless at-risk youth – and enriched Reinach’s life at the same time.
On June 20 at 10 a.m., Reinach will strap on a parachute, board a plane and freefall 13,500 feet in hopes of raising money to buy a new van for Miami Bridge, which serves as a final safety net for young people who are removed from their homes due to abusive and neglectful situations.
“These are good kids – you go over there, and you just love them,” Reinach said. “All I want to do is raise money for them. I’m not asking people to support me – I’m asking for people to support those who can’t ask for themselves.”
To that end, she’s urging friends and neighbors to drop off checks made out to Miami Bridge at her home – 365 Harbor Lane – or send them to the facility itself at Miami Bridge, 2810 Northwest South River Drive, Miami, FL 33125.
In Key Biscayne, Reinach’s name is synonymous with Miami Bridge, which provides 24-hour shelter and care for its at-risk beneficiaries, and also helps young people learn to cope with anger and emotional turmoil – all in hopes of giving them a new start.
The nonprofit’s president emeritus, Reinach has for years devoted herself to the galas, Christmas gift drives, silent auctions, etc. that help the organization function.
She’s also gone to greater extremes:
In 1997, she ran the New York City Marathon on behalf of Miami Bridge, again to purchase a van; and June 20 will actually be her second skydive on the charity’s behalf. Inspired by the first President George Bush, who celebrated his 80th and 85th birthdays with skydives – “If he can do it, I can do it,” she said – Reinach first took to the skies as a fundraising effort in 2009.
Based on that experience, she’s approaching next month with no fear and plenty of excitement.
“There’s nothing dangerous. I wouldn’t do it a second time if it was,” said Reinach, who will do her second jump, as she did her first, from Homestead Air Force Base. “They know what they’re doing, and you feel like a bird. It’s a beautiful feeling.”
And besides, said Reinach – who has traveled the world over, picking up elephant statues to add to her colorful collection; took flying lessons until her kids made her stop; and gets up every morning at 5 a.m. to run – her enjoyable life of living and teaching popular bridge classes in the Island Paradise needs a little shakeup every once in a while.
“I need some excitement in my life,” she smiled. “I like adventure.”
Indeed, she said the only time she had a sense of fear on her first jump was the instant she had to step off the plane and into nothingness – but she followed the advice of the videographer filming her experience, who told her not to look down, and instead to look into the camera and smile.
They’re instructions that the good-humored Reinach seems to have applied to her entire life.
She moved to Key Biscayne in 1975 after visiting a friend on the island and falling in love with its beauty and family-friendly environment. Having lived in Manhattan with her children and husband, Reinach was impressed with how safe the Key felt:
In New York, her husband would remove his watch before walking the dog from their Fifth Avenue home. Her son and daughter would tuck “mugging money,” a dollar, in their shoes; and she couldn’t let them ride their bikes without making sure her building’s doorman was watching. But on the Key, “We didn’t even lock our house back then – and I loved it,” she said. “It was so different than living in Manhattan. It’s so busy there. Here, it’s laidback.”
But sadly, just months after the family moved to Key Biscayne, Reinach’s husband passed away.
That’s when she found herself and her two young children cared for by their new hometown.
“We were embraced by the community,” she said, citing no shortage of invitations to meals and holiday celebrations. “This is the best community. They were just great.”
Now, she’s returning the favor to the young residents of Miami Bridge.
Reinach’s involvement with the group started when she was President of the Key Biscayne Republican Woman’s Club. Every holiday season, club members would exchange gifts, until one year Reinach suggested the women didn’t really need another present – and should instead buy for kids who might otherwise not get anything.
She looked for a beneficiary, and found a small shelter for at-risk children named for its location – right underneath Miami’s I-395 bridge.
“The rest is history,” she said.
And it’s a history that continues to enrich Reinach’s life to this day.
So much so that when she takes her plunge on behalf of Miami Bridge next month, she’s hoping one very special guest will be on the ground to watch.
One of the Bridge’s former residents, a young woman named Chyna, has become a daughter to Reinach. Chyna is now in her 30s – a mother herself – and is rising through the ranks in a career in management at the Home Depot chain.
“She calls me mom. She calls me with her problems,” Reinach said, describing how she followed Chyna through Miami Bridge, foster care, work programs, etc. “She’s doing really well, and I’m very proud of her.”
Chyna hopes to be at the jump, along with her kids, who consider Reinach their grandmother.
That includes the newest addition to the family, a baby girl just several months old.
As she prepares to take her next leap of faith and proudly shows a picture and the story of her family and Chyna’s, now forever intertwined, Reinach shares a detail that makes something as crazy as jumping out of a plane feel completely worthwhile, as long as the Bridge benefits:
The little girls’ middle name?
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