‘Around the World’ balloon finally found

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 4, 2003

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Up, up and away the mass of red, helium balloons went, into the sky, but the 150 kindergartners who let them go hoped they would return to them.

Last May, the Susie B. West Primary School students released these balloons to conclude their &uot;Around the World with Books&uot; theme to the Books and Beyond reading program. Attached to each red balloon on its blue string was a tag with each student’s name and the address of the school with instructions that if anyone found the balloon, they were asked to mail the card back to the school.

Principal Cindy Idom counted down from five, and at one, Montavis Hill released his red balloon into the air. It went &uot;way up in the sky,&uot; now first-grader Hill said.

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&uot;It looked like the sky was fixing to turn red,&uot; Hill said of the balloon release. &uot;But the sky didn’t turn red. The wind started blowing them everywhere.&uot;

And in the few years the school has done the balloon release, Hill’s card was the first to ever return to West.

A logging crew found the balloon about 165 miles away from Natchez in Poplarville &045;&045; or at least, the card attached to it &045;&045; on June 12 and mailed the card, along with a short letter back to the school, at the end signing &uot;it was nice finding this.&uot;

&uot;What gets me is the loggers took time to send this back,&uot; Idom said.

Hill said he was &uot;happy&uot; to know his balloon was found.

&uot;Because I wanted it to come back. Because I loved my balloon,&uot; he said.

The balloon release was a final step in a year-long program.

The program is set up so each time the students read 15 books, they receive a prize. The students go through eight stations, totaling their book-reading count to at least 120 books throughout the school year. Teachers, parents and the librarian read the books to the children.

If a student moves through all eight stations, he receives a certificate and a medal at the awards ceremony at the end of the year and gets to release his balloon into the air. &uot;At this level, we are trying to encourage them to read for fun,&uot; West Librarian Diane Burns said. &uot;We encourage them to read any book they like to.&uot;

For Hill, it worked. He said he &uot;loves&uot; to read, noting some of his favorite books also are some of his favorite television shows and characters.

Unfortunately, the logging crew did not put a return address on the envelope they mailed their letter back in so the logging cannot be contacted.

But their note and return of the tag made Hill’s day.