CAPE SABLE ISLAND, SHELBURNE COUNTY, N.S. – A red balloon released by an elementary student in Blue Springs, Nebraska, on Nov. 3 as part of drug-free awareness week activities made landfall at The Hawk, Cape Sable Island in Shelburne County within two days.
The balloon was found on Nov. 5 by local resident Paul Cunningham while he was out for a Sunday walk on the Hawk Beach. Inside was a note that read: “Red Ribbon Week (Drug free awareness week) October 2017. Please contact our school if you receive this paper.”
The school was Southern Elementary in Blue Springs Nebraska.
Cunningham took the balloon and note home to his wife Janice, who is a student with the Shelburne County Learning Network. Excited by the find, Janice took the note to school with her.
“It was a good learning opportunity for us,” she said.
With the help of adult instructor Tammy Ross, a letter was penned and mailed to the student, along a google map that showed the balloon travelled an estimated 2,000 miles, or around 3,218 kilometres. The letter also suggested online links where the student could find out more information about Nova Scotia, The Hawk and the Shelburne County Learning Network.
“It’s kind of neat the balloon travelled so far,” said Ross, who noted in the letter, “I think it is very cool another school has found your balloon.”
When contacted, Southern Elementary school counsellor Dee Bednar was thrilled to learn that one of the balloons had travelled so far.
“That is awesome,” she said. “The kids are really excited to get calls when balloons are found. They are going to be really excited to find out how far this one travelled.”
Red Ribbon Week was started in 1988 in honour of DEA agent Enrique Camerene, who was tortured and killed by Mexican drug lords in 1985 while undercover.
“Red Ribbon Week is a week in which communities across the United States celebrate being drug free, being healthy and making good choices,” said Bednar. It is celebrated by schools throughout the United States with a full week of activities at both the elementary and high school levels.
For Southern Elementary, Red Ribbon Week was Oct. 30 to Nov. 3. The release of the helium filled, biodegradable balloons by the 500 students was the grand finale event.
“The wind was so strong that day,” recalled Bednar. In the past, the farthest reported balloon travel was Michigan which is about 845 miles (1,360 km) away,” said Bednar.
“We’ve never received calls from this far away,” she said. “That is pretty cool.”