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Color the Skies Festival today & Sunday

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The Re/Max hot air balloon ground crew worked to fill the envelope with hot air for a media demonstration at dawn Friday morning at Ripon’s Mistlin Sports Park for the benefit of the media as winds...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED September 1, 2012 1:23 a.m.

RIPON — The enthusiasm for a successful hot air balloon festival was not diminished by the wind that kept the balloons grounded during a planned media event at Mistlin Sports Park.

Organizers for the two-day fund-raising event today and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days in support of the Children’s Hospital Central California located in Madera introduced Color the Skies’ 9-year-old ambassador Bella Gardette to the press as the Re/Max balloon team filled their massive envelope with hot air to provide a backdrop for the morning.

Young Bella is one of many “heart and soul” success stories the hospital has added to its history of diagnosing and treating of life-threatening childhood diseases.

Bella told her pilot Roger Barker that she was both excited and somewhat scared about taking her first flight in a balloon.  With her mom Rachelle standing at her side, she asked him to autograph the event’s full color program for her to keep as a memory of the flight.

A clinical geneticist at the hospital diagnosed Bella with DiGeorge Syndrome – a rare chromosomal disorder that causes a child to develop with a small stature.  She had also had related speech impediments that were corrected with surgery.

Another hospital story that came out of the morning’s media event that involved a mother and daughter volunteer team who had experienced something of a miracle diagnosis at the hospital that had puzzled doctors until an ultrasound followed by a stay at Children’s Hospital of Central California resolved the problem.

Brenda Bunnell is the volunteer coordinator of the seventh annual event and her daughter Karinna Gustafson, 23, is the coordinator for the entertainment billed over the weekend.

`Karinna had been active some 10 years ago in track and cross country at her middle school.  She remembered that she was sitting with friends, noting that she just didn’t feel right.  Doctors sent her to the Madera hospital where she was found to have a one-inch hole in her heart.

 “The care and the support, it’s phenomenal,” Bunnell said.

While a one mile and a 5K run/walk is scheduled to highlight the morning today a Children’s Fun Run will probably captivate the most memories with children filling the starting line at 9 a.m.  The adult run and walk are set at 7:30 and 8 a.m. respectively.

Awards will be handed out at 9:30 a.m. by the amphitheater near the baseball fields.

And, amidst those expected to swarm the breakfast tents and fun rides as in past years, the Delta Blood Bank staffers will be set up to take blood donations.  The Ripon Primary & Urgent Care Center is setting up a first-aid station to assist with the smallest scratch with a Band-Aid, water, or other needed medical assistance.

A festival photo contest is looking for the perfect photo to put on the cover of next year’s color program.  Directions for submissions can be found inside this year’s program.  Seventh grader Kailey Stone’s photograph can be seen on the 2012 Color the Skies cover.

Tethered balloon rides are being offered for a $10 donation and the balloon can be found near the Mistlin water tower in the center of the field. 

Launching of the balloons – wind permitting – is scheduled between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.  The Bay Area Skydivers will be jumping out of their aircraft over the park at 9 a.m. and the hospital’s Air George Helicopter is arriving center field at 10 a.m. where it is going to be on display for public inspection.  Crew members will be present to answer any questions.

There are kids’ games, pancake breakfasts entertainment, and lunch available both today and Sunday.

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