It was Labor Day weekend 2012 and the first Sequim (WA) Balloon Rally was underway. I was the invited Balloonmeister (which means I am responsible for the visiting pilots, weather, landowner relations, and any questions that arise). This was the first time I had flown in Sequim since 1995 when I flew for the 100th Irrigation Festival. Of course all I could remember was a lot of water. As the Balloonmeister I too was a visiting pilot and did not live in Sequim. However, once I witnessed the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula and fell in love with the people I made Sequim my home. On with my story…
On Sunday I invited three individuals to have a short tether ride prior to launch. These people were challenged…one with no limbs, one with cerebral palsy, and one cute little senior. Each had to be lifted into the basket. And each was filled with delight. You could feel the magic created that morning. It is so easy to imagine most individuals able to climb into a basket. When I looked to the ground I saw three people who did not have the ability to fly easily in a balloon. I was excited to offer a chance to have them free from their wheelchairs and into the sky…even at a small height. This made my heart glad and once again my journey of joy was satisfied. Of course, it was not easy to get them onboard. You can image the difficulties the balloon crew encountered as we had to be careful not to offend anyone by holding onto wrong places while lifting squirming and slippery bodies (due to sliding clothing), up and over the basket. There was also a possibility of dropping our new passengers. However, with plenty of encouragement from the crowd and giggles at the antics, it was all done in a relaxed atmosphere.
The next day a caregiver approached me and asked, “Can you find a way to give them a real flight?” I said I would think it over. One solution was a basket with a door to enable a wheelchair to be wheeled onboard. However, I wanted something more…an aircraft that would allow an individual to feel the air around them while getting a 360 degree view with nothing to encumber their vision. I dreamed of a small balloon that would allow a challenged individual to be
free from their wheelchair.
Two months later a two seated balloon was unveiled in Albuquerque designed to be at wheelchair height. Italian designer and balloonist Paolo Bonanno worked his magic and came up with something quite unique. (Now, I’m not saying a small, two seated chariot had not been built…they had and were flying mostly in Europe. I am saying that this one actually sat on a base instead of on the ground. This allowed one to transfer from their wheelchair to the balloon seat instead of being carried over the basket which is typically 4′ high). Imagine how much easier it would be to just slide from wheelchair to balloon seat. Five years of creating a vision of such an aircraft and it was now available. I was excited! The dream was at last at our fingertips. The next steps would be a quest for Phase I…the Foundation of the Dream Catcher Balloon Program. This would also include fundraising and R&D since the original base design introduced with the chariot system could not support the it.
And that is how it starts. You ask for something and it is given. You dream with happiness in your heart and that dream will be produced. It is not up to us as to the timing. Just knowing the journey is filled with wonder and joy brings me a warm feeling inside.
Bring warmth to someone you love in a unique and exciting fashion. Sponsor a challenged individual’s dream of joy. We are happy to assist with your tax-deductible donation. How great a gift it would be to enable others to feel special and empower their dream of the impossible. After all, isn’t that why we are on this planet? I would like to think it as so.