Balloon buddies

Melissa Watkins, owner of Mel Rhea Balloons, delivers Balloon Buddies to residents and staff at The Stilley House Assisted Living.

Residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Marshall County had their spirits lifted thanks to generous sponsors of an Adopt-A-Grandparent campaign. The campaign is a collaborative effort of balloon artists nationwide including Mel Rhea Balloons owner Melissa Vinson Watkins.

During the month of January, Watkins and her staff delivered a Balloon Buddy to every nursing home resident in honor of her cousin, Bailey Holt, who lost her life in the Marshall County High School shooting three years ago. The balloons were sponsored by individuals in the community, Lake Chem Community Federal Credit Union, CFSB and Altona Baptist Church.

After hearing about the loneliness experienced by senior citizens in COVID isolation, Watkins reached out to the nursing homes and assisted living facilities to see if she could help, and the response was positive.

In total, 264 buddies were delivered to Calvert City Convalescent Center, Lakeway Nursing and Rehabilitation, Oakview Nursing and Rehabilitation and The Stilley House Assisted Living.

Each resident received a smiling balloon arrangement with an encouraging poem, reminding them that they are thought of, cared for and loved. MelRhea Balloons also gave a “Big Buddy” to the staff of each facility to thank them for their commitment and dedication through these difficult times of restriction.

“Bailey was a caring spirit and gentle soul who showed kindness to everyone she met,” said Watkins. “Through this program, we hope to carry on her legacy of kindness. The Balloon Buddies have purple ‘shoes’ because that was Bailey’s favorite color.”

Watkins’ next focus is delivering balloons to facilities in McCracken County.

“As long as there is the need to deliver joy and hope, we will keep working to get these precious seniors adopted,” Watkins said. “So many haven’t seen their families or felt a hug from their loved ones for almost a year. We hope that this small gesture brings smiles to their faces and lets them know that they are not alone.”