Balloons soar over Tri-State

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Up, up and away!

Balloons of every color of the rainbow disappeared into the blue March sky Monday to the cheers of about 70 students from the Lawrence County Open Door School.

The event has been a yearly tradition at the school to kick-off Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

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"The balloon launch is kind of symbolic of their hopes and dreams," said Sarah Diamond Burroway, grants and special projects coordinator for the MR/DD Board and chair of the Awareness Committee. "There is no limit on how far these balloons will go."

Many students said they enjoyed the activities and are excited to see where the balloons will land. Each balloon has a tag on it with information about the school and asks whoever finds it to contact them.

"They will probably go all over the United States," Aaron Arbaugh, 21, said. "The balloons let people from other states get to know you and where you go to school."

Balloons have floated as far away as Virginia and Delaware, Principal Jeff Saunders said.

"The kids get excited any time we have any activities," Saunders said. "Whoever's balloon is returned from the farthest away will win a prize."

Open Door student Tiffany Bell, 21, said she has enjoyed going outside and releasing the balloons every year. She is a little sad because this was her last time.

"I am a senior and get to graduate soon," Bell said. "I will miss it a lot and hope my balloon wins."

After the balloon launch, the students got to enjoy music and a pizza party in the gymnasium. Kroger Food and Drug of Russell, Ky., donated the balloons and Monty's Pizza of Chesapeake donated the pizza.

"The goals of all of this month's events are to increase public recognition and awareness," said Paul B. Mollett, superintendent of the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD. "We want to increase the awareness that we have a number of fine programs and that these individuals are people who have strengths too and have a lot of positive things happening in their lives."

Throughout March, the Lawrence County Board of MR/DD will be conducting a food drive to collect items for the First United Methodist Church's food pantry, one of the largest in the county.

Items most needed include peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti sauce, cereal, crackers and canned fruit.

In addition to being accepted at all the events, cans can be dropped off at the Lawrence County Early Childhood Center, the Open Door School, Tri-State Industries, Inc., Briggs Library in Ironton and South Point, Rax Restaurant, Papa John's Pizza and VOCA-Rescare in Chesapeake.

"Awareness Month" events include a dance for consumers served by the MR/DD Board and employed at Tri-State Industries, Inc. at 6 p.m. on March 6 at TSI.

The Third Annual MR/DD March Madness basketball games will be played March 14 at Dawson-Bryant High School. The Open Door Jets vs. the Alumni will be played at 5 p.m. and TSI vs. Media All-Stars will follow. Papa John's will sponsor a free registration open to anyone for the chance to make a half-court shot to win a year's supply of pizza.

MR/DD "At the Movies" will be hosted March 18.

A public showing of the

the award-winning film "I Am Sam," starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer, will be presented at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. in the Bowman Auditorium at Ohio University Southern. Kenneth Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of MR/DD will be the keynote speaker. Groups should contact the board to reserve seating.

The Fourth Annual Chili Fest will be hosted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 29 at TSI.

The event will include crafts, entertainment, and children's activities.

Businesses, organizations, consumers, family and staff are encouraged to enter the competition and can contact the board at 532-7401.