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Balloon released in W. Virginia makes its way to country club

What started out as a routine outing on the golf course turned into a sense of wonder for one Thomson woman and a small group of school children in West Virginia.

Anita Young said she was on the No.1 fairway at Belle Meade Country Club waiting her turn to hit the golf ball when she saw what she thought was a plastic shopping bag rolling across the ground. "I thought it was trash, so I went over to pick it up while my husband was putting," Mrs. Young said.

Instead of a bag, Mrs. Young found a silver, partially deflated helium balloon with a card attached to the ribbon. Information on the card revealed the balloon had been released by students at Greenbrier Valley Academy in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

"We're really shocked it made it so far," GVA Principal Susan Wilson said in a telephone interview. "It had to go over the mountains to get to Georgia. So, it's been exciting for the kids to see how far it traveled."

The balloon release actually began as a different science experiment for a first through fourth grade class taught by Roger and Joni Stull. In an email, Mr. Stull said they were seeing how many helium-filled balloons it would take to lift a lawn chair off the ground.

"When we were done, we had used over 150 balloons," Mr. Stull said.

So, the students got to take as many balloons home as they wanted. But that still left 70 balloons in the classroom. Mr. Stull said they decided to attach information cards to each balloon and release them from the school's parking lot, which is nestled in the mountains of West Virginia.

"As they let them go, they watched the currents of the wind take the balloons in different directions, the wind changed while we were letting them go," Ms. Wilson said.

Evidently, one balloon traveled south more than 400 miles, where it came to rest on the Belle Meade golf course Monday morning.

"There's so many trees around there, that I'm surprised it wasn't hung up in a tree somewhere," Mrs. Young said. "But it was in the rough, blowing across the ground."

When news of the balloon's discovery and location reached the children, Ms. Wilson said they began speculating how it traveled so far.

"They were all trying to guess. They said maybe a bird got a hold of it and carried it, or maybe it got caught on an airplane. It's been exciting to listen to them," she said.

Mrs. Young's balloon was the second one reported to be found as of Monday. Ms. Wilson said they had received an earlier call from Covington, W. Va., which is 30 miles away from them, that a balloon had been found there.

"Hopefully, whoever else finds one will call them and will send them facts about their town," Mrs. Young said, adding that she plans to get brochures from the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce and send to the students.

Web posted on Thursday, September 02, 2010

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