Oliver’s dream balloon flight turned into reality when he recently flew with us from Norwich
. The young man’s Autism and hearing impairment did not stand in the way of him having an
amazing experience. His mother Ellen and his pilot for the flight, Robert Keron
, tell us more about his story.
When Ellen sent us a photo of Ollie enjoying his Virgin balloon ride, we found his story very empowering. While there are specific limitations in regards to safely travelling by hot air balloon, we aim to enable as many people as possible to enjoy this fantastic means of transportation. And Ollie’s experience, as his mother shared it with us, feels like a great example of a dream come true giving hope to others too.
“In my opinion, I feel that the Virgin Hot Air Balloons experience would help anybody with special needs that wants to do the flight. Too many times our children miss out as we don't know what it would be like for them. They have a great team to phone or online chat with. I want to take the time to thank everyone that made Ollie's experience fantastic. He will never forget it.”
Drawing And Making His Own Balloons
From the area where he lives with his family, near Norwich, Ollie loved watching hot air balloon float by. His enjoyment of watching them evolved into him drawing images of balloons from the internet. He even started to make his own, by using a wheelie bin liner, shoe laces, and a fan.
Two years ago, his family took him to a hot air balloon evening at Old Buckenham
. Mum Ellen remembers how happy Oliver looked at the event.
When he turned 19, Ellen started to think of how she could organise a hot air balloon ride for him. As she explains, he needed help and support from somebody close, whom he knows and trusts, to be able to enjoy the experience. While she was looking at ways to make this happen for him, Ollie kept watching balloons and making his own.
How His Dream Balloon Flight Became Reality
This June past, Oliver turned 21. Instead of gifts, his mother asked friends and family to contribute with what they could towards the cost of a hot air balloon ride for him and a companion. Her idea proved the best way forward, as they raised enough money to make the experience happen.
Ollie’s sign language tutor from Easton College agreed to accompany him on his dream flight. She could help him understand each step of the journey, and support him in such a completely new environment.
Ellen also tells us how much our pilot, Robert Keron, supported Oliver:
“When we got to the event, we explained Ollie's needs to Robert the pilot. He was absolutely amazing. He let Ollie look and get in the basket before others got in. Ollie helped to pull out the balloon and take off the straps. To Ollie this was a huge deal. I cannot praise Robert Keron enough for making Ollie feel at ease, which is the main factor with Autism.”
As the balloon took off, Ellen could see her son’s face brimming with happiness.
Talking about how the flight went, Robert Keron, our pilot, also gave us the in-flight perspective of the story:
“Ollie was great fun to be with and by all account has had a real interest in hot air ballooning for many years. He had a very sharp mind and got involved in preparing the balloon. Once we were airborne I explained how we use the different winds at height to steer the balloon. After we landed Ollie was really enthusiastic and was a great help to the crew packing up the balloon.”