Balloon Rides for Kids with Cancer

In what looks like a new landmark self-expression and leadership program project in the news, The Middletown Journal of Ohio is reporting that Floating Smiles is a new project offering balloon rides to children with cancer.  The patients came from the Children’s Hospital Medical Center and got the rides at the MidFirst Ohio Challenge ( a balloon festival) last weekend. The project was created by Julia Ossipov-Grodsky.

Balloon Festival to Give Cancer Patients a Lift

by Eric Robinette

Hot air balloons tend to make people smile, but for one group of children who will visit the MidFirst Ohio Challenge this weekend, the smiles may be extra wide.

Those children are cancer patients from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who will be treated to tethered balloon rides on Saturday, July 18.

The kids come courtesy of Floating Smiles, a nonprofit group that creates opportunities for young cancer patients to go on a hot air balloon ride to rise above their troubles.

“We just wanted to lighten up their day,” said Julia Ossipov-Grodsky, one of the group’s founders.

Floating Smiles and the hospital began working with Ohio Challenge organizers earlier this year, and the Challenge organizers secured a handicapped-accessible balloon — “Accessible Air” piloted by Al Hansen of Winamac, Ind. The balloon, which Hansen said is the first handicapped-accessible balloon in the United States, features a door on its basket to allow entry for someone who uses a wheelchair or who can’t easily climb into a standard basket.

Ossipov-Grodsky conceived Floating Smiles after working with Landmark Education, an international training and development company.

“I wanted to create a program that would lighten these children while they’re floating up in the air. I wanted to impact children who haven’t been having fun for awhile,” she said.

That impact is considerable, said Hansen, who has flown special needs children several times.

“Some of them can’t speak, then they go up and scream as loud as they can, and you see a smile coming across their face.

“It’s a really overwhelming and humbling experience to be able to do that,” he said.

The Ohio Challenge has made a point of trying to facilitate outings for similar groups in the past, said its publicity chairwoman, Ann Mort.

“We’re really excited. (The Ohio Challenge has been absolutely fabulous to work with for us. They’re so positive and it’s well-crafted for the children,” Ossipov-Grodsky said.

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