Hot air balloon pilots team up with United Way for Day of Caring

For the past ten years, the United Way’s Day of Caring has been on the rise, ballooning into more than 1,000 volunteers who help with over 70 projects in the southcentral Kentucky area. Some of the people who come to volunteer aren’t always your typical helpers, though.

"I mean this is my office," said SkyCab Hot Air Balloon pilot Matt McClinton. "It really doesn’t get much better than this."

That office is a basket being carried through the sky by a giant inflatable balloon, one that’s being used to teach kids the physics behind how hot air balloons fly.

"It’s really important because it sparks their imagination," added McClinton. "That’s what’s kind of compelling about hot air balloons. It sparks imagination in young and old, and that’s why people are so drawn to it. It’s one of the most photographed objects in the world because people are just naturally curious about what makes this thing fly. I think that satisfying that hunger for information when it comes to kids is very important."

All of this teaching and training is in conjunction with United Way’s 10th annual Day of Caring.

"The United Way does a great job of bringing the kids in, getting them some experiences with [hot air balloons], with the athletes," said Matt’s father, Scott McClinton, who is also a hot air balloon pilot for SkyCab. "It’s phenomenal, and I’m glad to be a part of it."

Every year, United Way’s Day of Caring sets lofty goals for the event, aiming to help children learn about a certain topic they’ve never had a chance to interact with or experience before.

"Education is the key to the future," U.S. Bank Regional President Craig Browning said. "For a lot of folks, that just sounds like something people say. But it really is. The more that learning becomes fun, the more that it becomes behavioral, and that pays off for a lifetime."

Day of Caring projects are designed to impact issues in four specific areas: Income, Health, Safety Net, and the purpose of the balloons – Education.

The pilots visited South Lawn on Western Kentucky University’s campus to interact with the children at the event, teaching them about the "science of flight" through demonstrations featuring their balloons.

"We sneak science in while we’re teaching them about balloons," said Scott McClinton. "In the end, they learn it. But they only learn it because they got to see a balloon, which is cool!"

After being involved with Day of Caring since its inception, Browning can attest to the impact these kinds of interactions can have on the kids.

"This’ll be a special memory for them," he said. "There’s something magical about a hot air balloon. They’re going to enjoy their time."

It’s not just the kids, though, who enjoy creating these memorable experiences.

"It’s not always about money," said Scott McClinton. "It’s about what you do, and how you impact the world. I think for me it’s been a great choice."

Matt McClinton shared his father’s sentiment.

"My job is to interact with kids and give back to the community," he added. "I get to be the face of a brand that really prioritizes those kinds of community outreaches. It’s really rewarding for me."

It’s just as rewarding for the kids as well. 

You can find more information on the United Way’s Day of Caring and the impact it’s had on the southcentral Kentucky community by visiting their website