A Dying Friend's Wish
Imagine going to work one day and coming home not feeling too well. OK, maybe that’s not a stretch for most of us; after all, for a lot of you just going to work doesn’t leave you with such a good feeling in your stomach to begin with!
But seriously….imagine going to work at a job you love and coming home feeling ill. So you decide to go to the doctor and get patched up. Then imagine that same doctor looks at you and says, “I’m sorry, but there’s no easy way to say this…..you have terminal cancer….”
This is exactly what happened to a dear friend and colleague, Deborah Fellman, a balloon decorator and entertainer from Richmond, Virginia. In late November, she was busy working and planning for the Christmas holiday. A few days later, she was planning her own funeral.
Stage four endometrial cancer…….inoperable.
The doctor gave her six months.
Now what would you do if you were given six months to live? Would you go on that once in a lifetime trip and travel the globe? Would you rush to complete your bucket list? Or maybe just accept what is and wait for the inevitable?
Well, Deb did none of the above. She wanted to do something to leave her mark on her community. She wanted to give back to the town that had treated her so well during her life and career. She wanted to delight the children of Richmond at least one last time, and she wanted to know that she would make the most of her life while she still had it.
So Deb conjured up an idea, and on the weekend of February 24 and 25, 2018, that idea became a reality.
It was Deb’s dream to bring world class balloon art to Richmond, and it was her last wish to see a large scale balloon installation completed in her home town. So she reached out to several friends of hers to see if they would help her. Balloon Designers’ own Steven Jones was one of those friends.
The event itself had to be somewhere large enough to host the sculpture, so she reached out to her friends and clients at Regency Square Mall. She had asked that the subject matter be the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, one of her favorite places to visit in Richmond.
Initially, this project was going to be restricted to a handful of people…that changed rather quickly once word got out.
In the end, over 50 different balloon artists from as far away as Ireland gathered together in Richmond, Virginia, to bring Deb’s vision to life. Both Betallic and Qualatex, two of the nation’s largest balloon manufacturers, generously donated product for the build. The local wholesale company, E & R Sales, the preferred vendor for Deb for years, provided a great deal of local support. The mall was more than happy to offer the space and visitors shopping that day were invited to take part in assisting with the build as well. Our own Steven was asked to serve as a team lead during the build, and his team oversaw the construction and installation of the ground surface, which included incorporating many of the other elements such as trees, flowers and retaining walls.
At last count, roughly 20,000 balloons were used to create the garden. Significant elements included a facade of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden building, the central fountain, various wildlife and flora and some incredible “topiary bushes” made in the shape of balloon dogs, made almost entirely OUT of balloon dogs!
You see, Deb was part of a different project some time ago where all she did for hours on end was make green balloon dogs which would be incorporated as grass. So it only became fitting that this adorable element would become her rallying cry…
Here are a few additional links if you’d like to learn or see more about the build: