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Up, up and away

BY GABBY DAVIS - gdavis@perutribune.com

It was a sunny, yet windy day as 50 Head Start children stood outside of Elmwood Primary Learning Center in Peru, preparing to release 12 red balloons into the air. 

The event was organized to demonstrate the children’s commitment to staying drug free and “keeping their bodies happy and healthy,” according to Head Start Director Julie Worland. 

It’s similar to Red Ribbon Week, which began in 1985 after the death of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena. Millions of parents and youth began wearing the ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness about the destruction that comes with drugs, according to the organization’s website. 

Today, it serves as a “catalyst” to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.

This is the first year that area Head Start has done a balloon release. “We thought it would be a great way to kick off Red Ribbon Week and to get the kids involved and share the message with their friends and family,” Worland said. 

“Our motto all week has been ‘the future is key so stay drug free,’” she said.

Elmwood children, along with other Head Start kids from Howard and Tipton counties, stood outside in a large grassy area just outside the school. 

Filled with anticipation, the children danced about, laughing and singing while teachers Melanie Giek, Amanda Hattery, and Amy Burton held clusters of bright red balloons. 

When it came time for the balloons to be set free, the kids started the count down:

“1, 2, 3 ... 10!”

One by one, Giek, Hattery, and Burton let go and the children stared in awe and wonder as they drifted up towards the sky before disappearing over the building.

“Look how high it’s going!” they said, pointing and clapping.

Once the balloons had disappeared, the children did a cheer.

“Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!” while thrusting their little fists and jumping into the air. 

Just like their balloons.