Balloon festival and fundraiser to take flight Oct. 25-27 at Southern Hills Hospital


As temperatures cool in the valley, southwest residents are set to experience hot air in a slightly different way.

Friends of Metro Search and Rescue, a nonprofit organization that supports rescue volunteers, is set to host the second annual Las Vegas Balloon Fest Oct. 25-27 at Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center, 9300 W. Sunset Road.

The event will feature hot-air balloons, food, carnival rides, and a health fair from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 25, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 26 and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 27.

Reach for the Stars, a nonprofit organization that provides hot-air balloon rides for individuals with physical challenges, is set to offer free tethered rides to children with disabilities.

“They have room for wheelchairs and walkers, and it’s just a way to give them that experience of riding in a hot-air balloon,” said Joyce Goedeke, Southern Hills’ vice president of marketing. “It’s a pretty special moment for everyone involved.”

According to the hospital’s CEO, Kimball Anderson, the balloons are set to glow at 6 p.m. Oct. 25-26 during the Twinkle in the Twilight shows.

“The balloons will be inflated and lit in a synchronized effort,” Anderson said. “It’s truly a beautiful sight.”

Additional balloon rides are set to be offered by Vegas Balloon Rides for $250 per person.

Law enforcement and emergency services, including the search and rescue team, are scheduled to provide demonstrations throughout the weekend.

The search and rescue team contains about 45 volunteers in three divisions: mountain rescue, dive rescue and tactical medical rescue.

According to volunteer Tim Seaman, the mountain rescue team generally responds to stranded hikers in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area or Mount Charleston.

“The mountain team has the most volunteers and receives the most calls,” Seaman said. “They hike, rock climb and those sorts of things to rescue individuals.”

The dive rescue team consists of about 10 volunteers who practice evidence recovery from lakes, ponds or other bodies of water.

Seaman, who is on the diving team, had to dive in fast-moving, cold water near Hoover Dam last year to retrieve a man who had jumped off a bridge.

“Working in conditions like that, you have to have confidence in your team and training,” Seaman said. “It was nice to be able to bring closure to the man’s family in the end.”

The tactical medical team operates with the Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, team in case an officer or suspect gets injured during an incident.

“We’re always training to keep up on the latest events and equipment,” Seaman said. “Keeping everyone safe is the most important part.”

According to Seaman, volunteers don’t have to be police officers, firefighters or paramedics.

For volunteer Manuel Lemus, the mountain and dive rescue teams are side jobs.

“We have people from all walks of life,” said Lemus, an insurance agent. “It’s a very rewarding opportunity.”

Lemus said any resident can volunteer on the search and rescue teams as long as they become certified and keep up on the training. Every team member must be certified annually in several core competencies, including training classes and emergency medicine courses.

“I didn’t have any technical rope rescue training before I joined, so I learned it through the police department,” Lemus said. “You just have to have the heart and drive to get certified if it’s something you want to do.”

Lemus also said the teams are always on call and can be sent out on a mission at any time.

“It happens when we’re on dates with our wives or during Thanksgiving dinner,” Lemus said, “but it’s priceless to know that you’re making such a huge impact on someone’s life.”

Among the three volunteer groups, the search and rescue teams log more than 300 missions a year in Clark County and parts of Arizona and California.

In 2002, the team was transported to Salt Lake City to work the Winter Olympics. The team also responded after Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans to perform helicopter hoist operations, according to Seaman.

“If they need our help, we’re out there,” Seaman said.

A portion of the event’s proceeds is scheduled to benefit Friends of Metro Search and Rescue.

“Our services are 100 percent free,” Seaman said. “We search, we rescue and we bring them home. They don’t ever get a bill.”

For more information or to purchase hot-air balloon rides, visit lasvegasballoonfest.com.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

 

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