Laurel Place Assisted Living Center residents, from left, Joyce Madison, 86, Craig Donelson, 61, Norma Sue Becker, 89, Lois Draper, 94, Mildred Marie Harris, 95, and Maxine Clark, 103, gather on the eve of taking a tethered balloon ride, scheduled for today at Port Angeles Civic Field. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Laurel Place Assisted Living Center residents, from left, Joyce Madison, 86, Craig Donelson, 61, Norma Sue Becker, 89, Lois Draper, 94, Mildred Marie Harris, 95, and Maxine Clark, 103, gather on the eve of taking a tethered balloon ride, scheduled for today at Port Angeles Civic Field. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Grandparents to ride high in special balloon lift-off

The Dream Catcher Balloon Program provides rides to disabled people in a custom balloon.

PORT ANGELES — At 94, Lois Draper has pretty much seen it all. But even with the memories and experiences of a long life, Draper has never ridden in a hot air balloon.

That will change today, thanks to the Dream Catcher Balloon Program. The program, organized by the Chrysalis 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, provides rides to disabled people in a custom, 45,000-cubic-foot balloon.

The balloon, under the control of Captain Crystal Stout, will be lifting off from 9 to 11 this morning at the south end of Civic Field, 307 S. Race St., as part of the inaugural Grandparents Day Family Lift-Off.

The public is invited to the lift-off and can take a ride in the balloon for a $10 donation to Chrysalis. The donations will allow the nonprofit to provide free flights to disabled people across the country, Stout said.

Live music by Dave and Rosalie Secord, helium balloons for kids and coffee and pastries are planned.

Using a special seat, the hot air balloon allows disabled people to float in the hot air balloon tethered 25 feet above the ground — and allows family, friends and caregivers to share in the moment, Stout said.

“I am ready to fly,” Draper said Thursday afternoon.

Draper is a spry, effervescent woman whose big personality brightens whatever room she is in — despite her small stature. She said she is 4 feet, 11 inches tall and she handcrafts her own clothing.

“The more you think of getting away, the higher you go, the more giggly you get,” Draper continued, barely able to control her infectious laughter.

“I am so excited about it.”

Draper is one of several residents at the Laurel Place Assisted Living facility — ranging in age from 61 to 103 — who are scheduled to take a ride in the balloon today.

The two-seat balloon cost about $25,000 to commission and was designed “to be able to allow grandparents or seniors to do something fun with their families so they can all share in something extraordinary,” Stout said this week.

“A lot of people who are wheelchair-bound or more ground-based would not be doing this, whereas their kids could. This will allow everyone to do something together that they could talk about in the future.”

The balloon seat is 22 inches off the ground to accommodate folks in wheelchairs. The seating is made of aircraft aluminum and stainless steel, and was crafted locally by Allform Welding Inc., a Carlsborg-area business owned by Dan Donovan.

During each flight, Stout will take up one adult.

“If kids are very small, they can sit on the laps of their parents and the whole family can enjoy that … and have a relaxing time as a family unit,” Stout said.

“We are only 25 feet from the ground so that no one gets up too high but still gets the chance to be in a hot air balloon. Grandpa can go up, or Grandma, and then maybe their grandkids can follow.”

The ride is something special for Maxine Clark, 103, a Laurel Place Assisted Living resident, said her daughter, Susan Marx of Port Angeles.

“I am going to be there with a camera watching her reaction,” Marx said.

When asked if she was ready for the flight, Norma Sue Becker, 89, another Laurel Place resident, crossed her fingers on both hands and said, “I am wondering … should I do this or should I not?”

Becker said she is afraid of heights and has never been in a hot air balloon before.

This will be the first time in a hot air balloon for Mildred Marie Harris, 95, the Laurel Place resident said Thursday.

“My grandkids are going up, and they want me to go with them,” Harris said.

“There is a first time for everything. I try to do everything that comes up and stay active.”

Joyce Madison, 86, another Laurel Place resident, said she thinks the experience “will be great.”

Perhaps the youngest Laurel Place resident scheduled to participate in the flight, Craig Donelson, 61, is hoping he will be able to get on the balloon.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004 and said he gets weak and stiff sometimes.

“Hopefully I will be able to take this trip on the balloon,” Donelson said.

“I am going to try to make the best I can.”

For more information, visit www.dreamcatcherballoon.org.

________

Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].

Captain Crystal Stout, right, executive director of the Dream Catcher Balloon Program, and Larry Jeffryes of Sequim lift off from Sequim Valley Airport in a hot air balloon specially designed to allow folks in wheelchairs to slide onto the seat and go for a ride. (Chris McDaniel/Peninsula Daily News)

Captain Crystal Stout, right, executive director of the Dream Catcher Balloon Program, and Larry Jeffryes of Sequim lift off from Sequim Valley Airport in a hot air balloon specially designed to allow folks in wheelchairs to slide onto the seat and go for a ride. (Chris McDaniel/Peninsula Daily News)

More in Entertainment

Free children’s art activities, such as this pictured in a file photo, at the Uptown Street Fair in Port Townsend will be from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Uptown Street Fair offers music, art, parade on Saturday

Annual festival focuses on local residents

Variety of jazz on tap at Thursday concert

The Peninsula College Jazz Ensemble’s “Summer Quarter Concert” will… Continue reading

Strait turners to meet

The Strait Turners chapter of the American Association of Woodturners… Continue reading

Free music offered outdoors on Peninsula

Concerts set in Sequim, Port Angeles, Port Townsend

Michael Stephen Brown.2022 Finale.Pianist
Olympic Music Festival begins season today

The Olympic Music Festival begins its 2022 Summer Season… Continue reading

Second Saturday venues offer art

The Second Saturday Art Walk will feature art and… Continue reading

Art, music, drama on tap this weekend

A variety of entertainment is scheduled on the North Olympic Peninsula this… Continue reading

Graden Kubas, 16, of Sequim, scratches the back of his Hereford steer, Hammer, that he plans to exhibit in the Fitting and Showing category of the Jefferson County Fair in Port Townsend on Saturday. Kubas, a member of FFA, raised the steer from about 1 week old to its present age of 16 months and weighs about 1,000 to 1,300 pounds. Kubas plans to auction Hammer at the Clallam County Fair and hopes to net around $4 per pound. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Jefferson County Fair kicks off today

Graden Kubas, 16, of Sequim scratches the back of his Hereford steer,… Continue reading

Sally Pfaff’s acrylic landscapes are on view at the Port Townsend Gallery.
Galleries display night skies, landscapes, ceramics

Artists featured for month of August

Most Read