Both young and old enjoyed two days of balloon festivities over the weekend at the annual Hot Air Balloon Rally put on by the Black Sheep Squadron and the Family Care Foundation in Amarillo Oct. 18 and 19.
“This event is a weekend-long hot air balloon rally put on by the Texas Black Sheep Squadron, a ballooning organization that supports the sport of ballooning,” David Jones, chairman of The Family Care Foundation, said. “Friday night, we had Balloon Glow where locals could come out to the Discovery Center and enjoy the many activities and of course the balloons. On Saturday morning, we had the mass ascension for High Plains Children’s Homes and the fundraising banquet Saturday night. So it was a weekend full of events.”
The proceeds for the balloon festivities went to The Family Care Foundation, an organization that gives medical aid to people in need in the Amarillo community.
“Specifically, we have worked with Amarillo [Independent School District] and we step in for one time gap needs for children in need of medical attention,” Jones said. “We also have an eyeglass program and we do medical equipment,” Jones said.
When it comes to inspiring kids to reach their goals, perhaps not many pilots can do it quite like hot air balloon pilot Michael Glen, who has talked to several schools.
“We talk to them about achieving your dreams and reaching your goals,” Glen said. “I was brought here for the Family Care Foundation three years ago and over the past three years, we have spoken to twenty different schools, and we have talked to over 5,000 kids.”
Part of inspiring kids is through telling his story.
“I am in a wheelchair,” Glen said. “I became paralyzed in a single-car rollover at 21 years old that left me paralyzed from the waist down. One of my goals was to become a hot air balloon pilot. With that goal in mind and hard work I received my license in 2006 which made me the only and first paraplegic balloon pilot in the world.”
Hot air balloon pilot Pauline Baker, who holds high altitude records, said that she gains a lot from these types events.
“I absolutely love to see the look on the kids’ faces and I love to make friends,” Baker said. “I make friends all over the world.”
The packed parking lot of the Discovery Center was full of families having fun, including Annette Eckels’ and her grandchildren.
“They were so excited about the balloons that we had to come see it in person,” Eckels said. “Unless you go to Albuquerque, this is the closest that we are going to get.”
Michael Glen said the balloon glow is about allowing people to become the little kid they all have inside.
“It’s about making sure kids have a smile on their faces and the balloon Glow also allows adults to turn into the five year old kid that we are all inside.”