Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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October 22, 2013

An unlikely journey

Balloon honoring Western first-grader floats 945 miles to Boston-area school

A group of people walking their dogs in a suburb of Boston Monday found a weathered and beaten balloon with a message that touched a whole community.

They spotted the white balloon in a school yard there. They picked it up and saw there was a note attached that said, “In memory of Mason Hopkins. You will be missed by Western Primary.”

Three days earlier, the kindergarten, first- and second-graders at Western released 1,500 balloons of all colors to honor their friend Mason who died Oct. 5 after a three-year battle with brain cancer.

Before the release, Mason’s teacher told the students gathered on the playground, “One of Mason’s best gifts was his ability to fill our buckets with just his friendly smile. Because Mason touched our hearts in such a special way, we wanted to share that feeling with others. We hope that anyone who sees these balloons in the air today or finds them when they land will also smile and share their smile with others.”

His teacher’s wish would soon come true.

One lonely, white balloon floated 945 miles before falling to the ground at CD Hunking Middle School in Haverhill, Mass.

Principal Jared Fulgoni said a group of families walking their dogs Monday morning found it in the school yard, which is tucked into the neighborhood.

When he pulled into the parking lot to start the school day, the families raced over to meet him, eager to share what they found.

“These people were incredibly moved by it,” he said.

He was dumbfounded at first. They told him it came all the way from Indiana. But could that be? Boston would make sense, he said. Even Connecticut seemed plausible. But Indiana?

Some staff members searched Mason’s name online and found both his obituary and a Tribune story about the Friday balloon release.

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