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All-Ohio Balloon Fest to benefit United Way of Union County

Area nonprofit earned $10,340 in proceeds last year in exchange for volunteer support

2012-balloon-glow

A string of hot-air balloons appear at last year's All-Ohio Balloon Fest in Marysville. (PHOTO/MARYSVILLE JOURNAL-TRIBUNE)

MARYSVILLE — For the eighth straight year, United Way of Union County will be the beneficiary of the upcoming All-Ohio Balloon Fest.  Event organizers have donated net proceeds totaling $34,880 to United Way over the years, with $10,340 coming on the heels of last year’s record-breaking crowds.  The regional attraction including the launch and glow of more than 30 hot air balloons and a performance by country music star Kellie Pickler will be held at the Union County Airport August 15 through the 17.

United Way coordinates volunteers for the Balloon Fest in exchange for the donation.  Last year’s five-digit contribution helped kick off United Way’s annual campaign and ended up being one of only 13 accounts to give at that level or beyond a year ago.  Volunteers are hoping for a similar boost this month as the United Way annual campaign goal has been set at $1 million for the first time.

“I'm glad they choose United Way because it strengthens my community,” said Kim Chapman, a volunteer from Marysville. “While other charities do great work in Union County, United Way provides some very basic needs such as food, shelter and protection to our most vulnerable members.”

In all, 45 programs of 30 local agencies receive United Way funds, including six area pantries, four senior centers, two shelters, an after-school youth center, a homeless prevention program, rent and utility assistance, disaster relief, prescription medication, hospice care, cancer support, youth activities, and more.

“I’ve been involved with different boards and organizations that are exclusive, serving one segment of the population,” said Kimm Godfrey, Vice President at Fifth Third Bank and United Way’s 2013 Campaign Chair.  “But United Way covers every nook and cranny, every facet of life.  You never know when it’s going to affect you.  And it may not even be a tragedy.  It may be a wonderful thing.  Look at all the things the Red Cross does.  You look at the YMCA, or Big Brothers Big Sisters.  The reach of United Way is just unlimited.”

United Way is working to recruit over 80 volunteers a day to help work the festival in five-hour shifts.  Help is needed to direct traffic in and out of the parking grounds as well as assisting out-of-town balloon pilots with their flying preparations.  Organizers say the extra help from United Way allows them to expand the show, giving them the added incentive of no-cost manpower when recruiting pilots from distant locations who would otherwise be unable to commit their balloons to fly.  With the festival’s expansion to a third day and the addition of the Pickler concert, increased volunteer help is even more critical to the success of the event.  

“Last year was my first year to volunteer and I was a bit hesitant,” Chapman said.  “So I called my girlfriends and organized a ‘girls’ night out.’  It was so much fun.  I got to ride in a balloon!  I wasn't expecting it and it was an offer I couldn't refuse.  This year we've asked to be assigned to the same balloon company we were assigned to last year.  Now it looks like it's going to be an annual event for all of us.”

Opportunities to volunteer are filling up quickly.  Those interested can log onto www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org or call Terri Sproull at (937) 644-8381 ext. 3 to sign up.  For more details about the All-Ohio Balloon Fest, please visit:  http://www.allohioballoonfest.com/

(For a direct link to the Balloon Fest volunteer sign-up, click:  http://getconnected.unitedwayofunioncounty.org/aam/general/event/?doc_id=178)

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