HOUSTON – More than 5,000 people were expected to help former President George H.W. Bush (search) celebrate his 80th birthday Saturday night, part of a weekend of festivities to be topped with a skydive Sunday.
The skydive will be "very safe. It will be a thrill for me," the nation's 41st president said at a luncheon in his honor Saturday at the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (search) in Houston.
Bush has made four parachute jumps in his life — the first as a Navy pilot shot down over the Pacific during World War II. He has made the other jumps since leaving the White House more than a decade ago, including one on his 75th birthday.
On Saturday night, President George W. Bush will be among the political leaders and other guests expected at his father's birthday gala at Houston's Minute Maid Park. Larry King, Dennis Miller and Bo Derek were among the celebrities expected to attend.
The party serves as a fund-raiser for the George Bush Forty-One Endowment (search), which is trying to raise $30 million to support his presidential library, the cancer center and his Points of Light Foundation.
Officials at M.D. Anderson thanked Bush and his wife, Barbara, for their fund-raising efforts on behalf of the cancer center by unveiling the Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic. The facility was named for the Bushes' 3-year-old daughter, who died from leukemia in 1953.
The George and Barbara Bush Endowment for Innovative Cancer Research at M.D. Anderson has raised more than $50 million since its founding in 1998.
The elder Bush intends to make his parachute jump Sunday over Texas A&M University in College Station, the home of his presidential library and museum.