The Joy of Adopt a Grandparent Balloon Buddies

For the past 11 months, I’ve been focusing a lot on how to keep my Knoxville business, Above the Rest Balloons, afloat in light of how all special events were abruptly tossed out all windows like dirty bath water.

It’s been difficult for sure during this Covid induced era. At the same time, I’ve learned a lot and made some huge pivots, getting more and more creative. (that’s another story for another day).

What I failed to do over the last 11 months, however, was to give even one thought about the many Senior Citizens–grandmas and grandpas–who have been isolated in a lock down that is supposed to be protecting them–and the very negative impact this is having on them in spite of the good care they are receiving. 

There was no need to think about them–both my parents and my husband’s parents are gone.  I have no one in Assisted Living communities.  No thoughts occurred to me to think about our Senior population. 

Have you? 

Probably not, unless you have family there.colorful balloon buddies make senior citizen smile by Above the Rest Balloons

A Shift in Thinking

In early January, a new awareness arose.

That’s when a fellow balloon artist from Indiana and others shared an idea about the Adopt a Grandparent concept when we were on a mastermind call. The instant it was shared, I knew it was exactly what I was being called to do. The next day, I contacted my client who is the director of Morning Pointe Assisted Living, Kari Christopher, to share the idea.

The moment I told Kari about the idea of getting a smiling Balloon Buddy into the hands of EVERY resident at Morning Pointe all at once, she was thrilled!

She shared how difficult it’s been to keep the seniors not only healthy but also happy and uplifted. The lack of human touch has definitely had a negative impact on residents and staff.  It was her story that made me really start seeing the importance of Adopt a Grandparent.

So it was with her blessing that we adopted Morning Pointe and launched Adopt a Grandparent in Knoxville.

AND THEN, my awesome daughter, who is studying Psychology, shared her textbook pages with me about the severe negative impacts of isolation and loneliness.  That’s when it really hit!  I started studying more about the effects of loneliness.  I discovered we are slowly killing our senior citizens with isolation. 

Research showed me that Adopt a Grandparent was not only needed. IT WAS ESSENTIAL! 

OMG! Head slap!  Bringing an unexpected smiling Balloon Buddy could be instrumental to improving their health.Smiling grandma with striped balloon buddy

How can that be?  It’s just a balloon?  It’s not a real person.  It can’t give hugs.  Yes, those thoughts went through my mind.

Until we delivered our first 52 Buddies. 

The best was yet to come:

FAR more than I ever expected!

More joy!
         More smiles!
                  More giggles!
                           More expressions of hope!
                                     More kind calls, videos, photos, and texts with expressions of joy!

More motivation to bring more smiles and hope to more seniors…more desire to reach out.

Yes, we’ve been continuing–to The Lantern, Elmcroft – 113 more so far.

Next up is Atria Weston Place with 78 residents & The Grove with 47 residents.  We’re almost there too because of so many kind people!

Atria reached 100% as I write this.  So exciting! We will deliver to Atria on Tuesday and hopefully mid week for The Grove…

But this time with even more joy than the last!  Why?

Because as I’ve been stepping way out of my comfort zone seeking business sponsorships, God provided more wonderful blessings…

       More stories of hurt and pain from family members followed by many thank you’s. More inspiration!

                                                                  More people volunteering to sponsor and bring joy.

And the blessing of a fantastic volunteer. 

Her name is Leslie Ashley.  Leslie’s mom, Sylvia, was a resident at Atria Weston Place.  Sadly, Ms. Sylvia passed away 8 months ago, while in isolation.  Such sadness for Leslie that I can only imagine.  When Leslie heard about Adopt a Grandparent, she asked if she could volunteer to help get sponsors. 

I was hesitant.  Then I got still.  In the stillness, I heard, “Let her help.”  I obeyed.  As is always the case, God provided me with an earthly angel in the way of Leslie Ashley.  Leslie has given her heart, generosity, and much effort to bringing smiles to so many.  I am so very grateful!  

Tuesday’s delivery will be different this time.


                Because Leslie will be with me, along with my awesome crew of Jennifer Hamilton and Piper Wells to make delivery!

Above the Rest Team deliverying Balloon BuddiesWe will get to see her experience the joy we have already experienced!  I predict there will be more tears of joy this time. My team and I have often had them, along with loads of smiles.

So much to be grateful for:

It’s so incredibly difficult to write down the plethora of tremendously positive emotions my team and I have felt so far with Adopt a Grandparent.  This has been an attempt, though a meek one at best.  I am extremely full of gratitude for:

  • Each and every person & business who has sponsored a grandparent or more so far. 
  • Every Assisted Living  community who has allowed us to bring joy to their residents.
  • The smiles and giggles from each Senior Citizen.
  • Getting to see the photos of seniors hugging Balloon Buddies and for their texts and videos.
  • For Jennifer and Piper who build each Balloon Buddy with joyful hearts.
  • For media attention that is spreading the word–Knox News, Knoxville Focus, Farragut Press, WATE, WVLT, WBIR.
  • Liz Romani from Valley Party in Indiana and fellow Balloon Artists from across the country who are also spreading joy in their states (and now even in the Netherlands)  Yes, we are counting how many Balloon Buddies are bringing joy around the world.  We’ll let you know.
  • Yes, this is the JOY of Adopt a Grandparent!        
  • Yes, we will continue striving to reach most of the 61 Assisted Living and Nursing Home communities in Knoxville.  A huge task, but our hands are up to the inflating, tying and twisting to create the Buddies because I am confident that our Knoxville volunteers will step up and out to give smiles, joy and hope to our senior citizens who have given us so much.                          


To learn more about Adopt a Grandparent, follow this link to read testimonials, see more photos and see how you can become part of this incredible initiative.

Jimmye Lou says it best, “I thought nobody cared and in walks Kari and this balloon and it made my day. We have such jewels here at Morning Pointe and this balloon was the icing on the cake. I’ve felt lonely for months now so when I get down I look at my balloon and it brings me a laugh.”  Yes, Jimmye Lou!  Yes!