This year Red Balloon is celebrating its 20'"
anniversary. From helping one severely bullied self-excluding thirteen
year old at my kitchen table write a modern-day interpretation of Romeo
and Juliet, to a cluster of Red Balloons that had 120 on roll in
2015-16, I am delighted to say that Red Balloon has gone from strength
to strength since that date in November 1996.
When I consider Red Balloon's growth, I can't help picturing the final scene of Le Ballon Rouge. The film tells the tale of a lonely boy, Pascal who, wandering home one night through the streets of Paris, finds a magic red balloon tied to a lamppost. After a series of adventures, a gang of boys (bullies), envious of the balloon, steal it and run off with it. The balloon escapes their clutches and returns to Pascal who is delighted to be reunited with his friend.
However the boys, intent on causing hurt, chase Pascal and the balloon through Paris, eventually surrounding them on a waste piece of land. Unable to protect the balloon Pascal watches as the gang members throw stones at it until it is punctured and slowly 'dies'. As the air ebbs out of it the gang disappears and Pascal stands devastated. But then balloons of all different colours float down to him from across the world. Pascal grabs their strings and is lifted high above the roofs of Paris to safety.
This is, in essence, what Red Balloon has done for over 450 Pascals in the last 20 years. And we could not have performed the 'up, up and away' support for them without your help. You have helped us produce that magic. Thank you - staff, trustees and donors, friends and parents and patrons - for without you, Red Balloon would not be the success it is today, with four healthy Centres and four small but growing satellite Centres run by Red Balloon of the Air. Without your collective advice, support, donations and work those children would have stayed out of school, ill-educated and with a poor future.
And thank you for participating in this celebratory dinner for our 20th anniversary. I hope that you have a wonderful evening and look forward to sharing another 20 years with you all.
Dr Carrie Herbert MBE