MRDD Awareness Month continues with balloon launch

Published 10:29 am Friday, March 6, 2009

The dream of a long-distance reply ascended even higher than the balloons on Thursday as students of Open Door School continued their celebration of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month with its annual balloon launch.

In its 15th year, students released helium balloons containing their first name and their respective school’s address during two scheduled balloon launches with the hope that the recipient will reply with a letter or note to the student’s contact information attached to the balloon.

Nearly 60 students clapped and cheered as their white balloons peppered the sky while being gracefully pushed by a gentle northwest wind on a clear, seasonal morning.

Email newsletter signup

Principal Kendra Kelley said the balloon launch averages around one reply a year and hoped the streak would continue in 2009. Responses in previous years have come back from across the Tri-State area and as far as Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“The balloon launch is exciting for the kids,” Kelley said, “This event is about us, who we are and that we can do the same things as many other people.”

Kelley added that the symbolic meaning of the balloon launch ties in perfectly with the 2009 statewide theme for MR/DD Awareness Month that is “Just Like Us.”

Students also shared in the anticipation of a possible reply.

“It was really cool to see the balloon launch,” said Open Door student Jonathan Simpson. “It would be nice to get a letter back.”

When asked where he thought his balloon would end its journey at, Simpson was enthusiastic it would be Canada.

Randy Mills, who is scheduled to graduate from Open Door this spring, thought the other end of North America would be a better landing spot for his balloon.

“I really hope my balloon ends up in Mexico,” Mills, 21, said. “I want to get a reply from a Mexican girl.”

Even if he doesn’t get a reply, Mills said having the opportunity to share the balloon launch with his friends was the best part of the event.

The balloon launch was followed by a cookie and soda reception in the school’s gymnasium. The balloons were donated by Kroger Food and Pharmacy and contained the company’s insignia.

Students at the Lawrence County Early Childhood Center also participated in the launch at their South Point facility.

Sponsored by the Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Awareness Month kicked off March 2, with a Dr. Seuss Soup and Sandwich Night Celebration at the Early Childhood Center.

It continues Thursday, March 12 with the March Madness Basketball Games at Dawson-Bryant High School Gym, beginning at 6 p.m.

A Science Night will be on Thursday, March 19, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Open Door School in Ironton. The month ends with a chili fest and craft show at Dawson-Bryant High School Gym from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information about MR/DD Awareness Month, call (800) 231-MRDD or (740) 532-7401.