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One student asked if Debbie Keenan was going to Paris. Another asked if she was ever coming back.
Well, Kennan didn’t make it anywhere near France, though the experience was still exciting for all who witnessed.
Keenan, the media specialist at Brooklyn Springs Elementary School, rode in a hot-air balloon Friday morning. The ride, which took place behind the school, was the result of a reading challenge Keenan posed to all the students in the school.
The students had to read for at least 125,000 combined minutes during October. They amassed more than 135,000 minutes – topping the goal by 10,000.
“I am especially thankful that I am fortunate enough to have a media specialist who would go to this extreme to motivate our students to read,” BSES Principal Gwen Hinson-Minor said. “Every child was motivated to read.”
All of Brooklyn Springs Elementary’s students and faculty gathered near the field behind the school Friday morning as Keenan prepared to go on the ride.
A Columbia businessman who goes by “Captain Telegram” provided the tethered envelope (balloon), riding basket, the burner and other accessories needed for Keenan to take to the skies.
Wows, oohs and ahhs could be heard as the burner gradually inflated the balloon. When it was ready, Keenan got inside the basket with Captain Telegram.
They ascended between 75 and 100 feet in the air several different times. Keenan said she could see the top of her school, neighboring South Middle School and even Springs Memorial Hospital.
“It was fun getting a different perspective,” said Keenan, who was taking pictures and video during the ride. “I would have gone higher.”
Keenan said Friday was the first time she had ever seen a hot-air balloon up close, let alone ridden in one.
To celebrate successful reading challenges in the past, the school has had other events such as student dances and cookouts. But Keenan said this one was her favorite.
“I’m just excited that the kids got an experience that they probably wouldn’t otherwise,” she said. “It’s definitely worth it.”
Students were talking about the ride long after they returned to their classrooms.
“It was very awesome,” said fifth-grader Kaytie Plyler said. “It was very big, too.”
Her classmate, La’Jameion Hood, wants to ride in a hot-air balloon now. He doesn’t think he’d be scared.
“It was surprising,” he said of Keenan’s ride Friday. “I never seen one in my life.”
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at email@example.com or at (803) 283-1152