Breaking News Bar
posted: 7/2/2014 12:00 PM

Serena's Song carries special-needs riders to new heights

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Serena's Song is specially designed for riders with physical or mental disabilities who otherwise can't navigate baskets that are often cramped or lack doors. Special-needs children and adults may reserve a ride in Serena's Song by contacting SEASPAR at seaspar.org or (630) 960-7600 for a registration form.

      Serena's Song is specially designed for riders with physical or mental disabilities who otherwise can't navigate baskets that are often cramped or lack doors. Special-needs children and adults may reserve a ride in Serena's Song by contacting SEASPAR at seaspar.org or (630) 960-7600 for a registration form.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Serena's Song is specially designed for riders with physical or mental disabilities who otherwise can't navigate baskets that are often cramped or lack doors. Special needs children and adults may reserve a ride in Serena's Song by contacting SEASPAR at seaspar.org or (630) 960-7600 for a registration form.

      Serena's Song is specially designed for riders with physical or mental disabilities who otherwise can't navigate baskets that are often cramped or lack doors. Special needs children and adults may reserve a ride in Serena's Song by contacting SEASPAR at seaspar.org or (630) 960-7600 for a registration form.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

 
By Miles Dobis
mdobis@dailyherald.com

Amid the rocket ship and parrot balloons that will float over Lisle's Eyes to the Skies festival this holiday weekend, none will make more of an impact than the round, blue balloon with a handicap symbol and a small, simple heart.

This is Serena's Song, the country's first wheelchair-accessible hot air balloon that will make its 20th visit to the Lisle festival.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

The balloon is specially designed for riders with physical or mental disabilities who otherwise can't navigate baskets that are often cramped or lack doors.

"Its basket is extra wide and designed from steel specially approved by the FAA for stability," said Susan Friend, executive director of SEASPAR, or Southwest Association of Special Parks and Recreation, and the balloon's organizer for the festival.

Nine stories tall and made of 1,600 yards of Ripstop nylon, Serena's Song has a basket 15 times stronger to support the extra weight and the door.

The balloon, created 21 years ago by Iowa native Gary Waldman, regularly tours the country and allows riders to go in the air in the tethered balloon along with the operator.

Waldman, whose daughter Serena has cerebral palsy, was inspired to create the balloon after he was invited to take a flight with family friend Phil Gray.

Once in flight, Serena made a noise and, for the first time, verbally expressed herself.

The name Serena's Song came from that day, with the thrill of flight bringing out Waldman's joy.

Waldman and Gray have since toured the country giving special-needs riders free flights. Greg Pavesich, SEASPAR's on-the-ground coordinator for the event, calls the balloon's arrival one of the annual highlights of his job.

"It's great for once to see people with disabilities have the same advantages as able-bodied people," he said. "It's nice to see the culture inverted."

SEASPAR estimates that Serena's Song will carry its 2,000th Eyes to the Skies passenger this year, and community members could not be prouder of its continued involvement with the festival.

"In my career of 35 years, some of my fondest memories have been on that field in Lisle," Friend said.

Special-needs children and adults may reserve a ride in Serena's Song by contacting SEASPAR at seaspar.org or (630) 960-7600 for a registration form. Rides will take place 6 to 7:30 a.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, July 3 to 5.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here