Balloonfest '86 was an event held by the United Way of Cleveland in Ohio. They set out to raise funds for the less fortunate and beat a world record by releasing almost one and a half million balloons, However; they stopped at a little over 1.4 million.
The event was intended to be a harmless fundraising publicity stunt, but the balloons drifted back over the city, Lake Erie and landed in the surrounding area, and caused problems for traffic and nearby airports.
The balloon also interfered with a United States Coast Guard search for two boaters who were later found drowned. In consequence, the organizers and the city faced lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages, and cost overruns put the event at a net loss
The stunt was coordinated by BalloonMart by Treb, a Los Angeles-based company headed by Treb Heining (shown in the video above). Tereb spent six months preparing for the launch. He and his team constructed a rectangular structure the size of a city block. It measured 250' x 150' and grew to three stories high. All of this was then covered by a simple piece of netting material.
Inside the structure over, 2,500 students and other volunteers spent grueling days and hours filling the balloons with helium. United Way did not approve of Balloonmart or Treb Heining's handling of the situation.
Children sold sponsorships to benefit United Way at the price of $1 for every two balloons. Beyond that, the event was a failure. The lawsuits caused by Treb and his team exceeded funds raised for the needy.
All of that aside, Ted is doing well and following his dream and the United Way is still able to provide help to the less fortunate.
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