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Lanterns ride the night sky

Jul 10, 2014
After a pre-flight check, a scout prepares to launch his lantern.

The instructions for lighting and releasing sky lanterns specifically state that the winds must be below 5 mph. On the night that Owosso, Michigan, had planned to release its Key Club sky lanterns, the winds were blowing too strong. The students had to reschedule to the next night, but the delay didn’t dampen the community’s enthusiasm.

On a calm Sunday evening, more than 300 people gathered at the Owosso Airport to release the 288 sky lanterns the Owosso High School Key Club members sold to raise money for Wounded Warrior Project.

“The sky looked like a midnight blue color,” says Jayne Brown, the club’s faculty advisor. “With all the lighted lanterns floating up, it was really pretty.”

This was the Key Club’s second year using the sky lanterns as its major, community-wide project, Brown says. In 2013, the club sold 212 sky lanterns for US$5 each and received some generous donations to net $950 for Wounded Warrior Project, which helps wounded U.S. veterans recover from injuries.

“The kids enjoyed it so much that we decided to repeat it this year and make it bigger,” Brown says.

The Key Club’s Kiwanis advisor, David Shepard, came up with the idea, Brown says. Shepard admits that sky lanterns always intrigued him because they’re so beautiful to see them float away into space, lighting up the night sky.

The Key Club sold tickets for lanterns at school to friends, students and teachers. To increase sales, members contacted veteran organizations, and they helped sell tickets. So did the airport staff.

On the night of the delayed launch, ticket holders arrived at the airport where Key Club members directed traffic and park cars. Ticket holders went into the airport terminal to receive their sky lantern and instructions, which Key Club members had printed ahead of time.

At 9 p.m. a loud speaker announced, “Light your lanterns.” Key Clubbers were in the crowd to help light lanterns and release them into the night sky.

“We raised $1,650 for Wounded Warrior Project,” says Shepard. “We were really pleased. This is a fun event for adults and kids to come and see the launch, to send up a lantern because many in the community have never seen a launch of this size and are amazed.”

The club is already planning next year’s sky lantern launch and aiming higher to sell more lanterns and raise even more funds.

Like hopes rising on the gentle evening breeze, the lighted sky lanterns gently floated up and drifted off to higher places. — Tamara Stevens
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