Up, up and away

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 12, 2002

Features Editor

Spirits and hopes soared Thursday as campers from the Washington and Murphree Parks Day Care Programs released about 100 balloons into the clear blue sky.

Gail Jones, program coordinator for the Troy Parks and Recreation Department, gave full credit for the innovative idea to Dan Smith, department director.

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"This was his brain child," Jones said. "He suggested the balloon release and it was a great idea and the children have all looked forward to it."

The project was to release balloons that carried messages wherever the wind would take them.

"Each balloon had a child’s name attached and a note that said the child was a participate in the city’s day camp program and in this balloon experiment," Smith said. "Whoever finds a balloon is asked to call and let us know where the balloon was found and when."

Smith said the idea of the project was to spark the imaginations of the campers and to create interest in places far beyond Troy and Pike County.

"Weather conditions and, of course, the wind will determine where these balloons go and how far," he said. "I’ve heard accounts of balloons traveling 1,000 miles, so we just don’t know how far reaching this project will be."

The goal is for the campers to become more interested in weather and in places far from home as they let their imaginations run wild as they consider the journeys the balloons are taking.

"Some of the balloons might make it no farther than Pike County while others might make it as far as Texas," Smith said. "But, we also know there is the possibility that a few balloons might make it to the Atlantic Ocean and never been seen again."

The reality of the project is that many of the balloons might come down in isolated places or in deeply wooded areas and never be found.

Smith said hopes are that some of the balloons will be found by those who will take the time to notify the campers that their message was received.

"The notes, which are tied onto to balloons, also tells whoever finds them that if they call, they will receive a tee shirt," Smith said. "Some of the tee shirts are our anti-litter shirts and others are the Fourth of July tee shirts. We hope to give away several of those."

Chances are most of the balloons will not make their way into human hands, but Smith said there will be great excitement surrounding those that do.

"If we do get responses,

that will generate more excitement and interest in projects like this," he said.

About 90 campers participate in the day camps at Washington Street and Murphree Park. The camps are from 7:30 a.m until noon Monday through Friday.

Activities include arts and crafts, table top games, outdoor games and swimming. The children are treated to a snack and lunch.