HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – Two sisters, a hot air balloon, and a debilitating disease. It makes for an unlikely story but is the recipe for a dream come true.
It all started back in 1982 when a Fort Wayne resident, Kimm Leowen went on a hot air balloon ride for her birthday. However, her older sister, Kammy Updegrove, wanted to go as well but wasn’t able. Updegrove told her mother eight years ago that she wanted to take her sister on another hot air balloon ride for her birthday, but this time they would go together. Unfortunately, at that time, they didn’t have the funds to make the trip happen, but it was a dream that Updegrove always held on to doing.
Updegrove was diagnosed in the 1960s with Down syndrome, at a time when little was known about the disease. However, through the years, she’s gotten better care. She’s now 54 and lives in a group home in Huntington run by Pathfinder Services, an organization that helps people with developmental or economic challenges. It’s a group, her mother says, helps her realize her potential everyday. However, Updegrove’s challenges didn’t stop with her handicap. She’s now suffering through the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Her sister said Updegrove’s short term memory is fading, but she still remembered wanting to take a hot-air balloon ride.
On Friday, with fundraising help from Pathfinder, the organization and her sister made that dream a reality for Updegrove. The two sisters took off on their ride in Huntington.
“It was special…just knowing that this is a memory that she may not remember a year from now, but I definitely will,” Leowen said.
If you’d like to donate to Pathfinder to help replenish their “Wish List” fund, click here.