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HILLSVILLE — Things are looking up for Joy Ranch as the children's home approaches its 50th anniversary, says development coordinator Brent Carrick.
Organizers have lots to celebrate at Joy Fest on Aug. 28, as the facility gets ready to kick off a commemoration of a half-century of operation.
The open house and alumni reunion features two attractions with balloons, said Carrick. Those include Jonathan Trappe, returning this year to launch his cluster balloon, as well as Ed Ristaino, who will offer tethered rides in his hot air ballon.
Trappe, who is famous for being the first to cross the English Channel in his kind of aerial device, will hope for better weather at Joy Ranch this year. Carrick said that a storm prevented him from going up last year.
Trappe also helped out Pixar in developing the movie "Up," in which the heroes set out on an adventure buoyed up by a bunch of helium balloons.
That's the same thing that Trappe does — he gets carried aloft by a 50-foot, or five-story, stack of balloons.
Hills Trucking has sponsored rides for all youth and staff at Joy Ranch to take a flight in Ristaino's hot air balloon, Carrick said. Balloon rides are available to members of the public for a fee.
"We really believe things are looking up at Joy Ranch, so that's the theme — Up!" he told The Gazette.
Joy Ranch now has four cottages open — the most in years, he explained.
More children are being helped at the facility.
And the number of community supporters has grown, coming off a particularly tough time because of the recession, he added.
Founders Richard and Mary McHenry incorporated Joy Ranch and started fund raising in 1957.
"The first donation was $3," Carrick said. "By 1961, they had built McHenry cottage and opened the door for the first time."
Joy Ranch was located west of Hillsville instead of near the McHenry's place in Dugspur, due to the generosity of another donor.
"There was a doctor in Woodlawn and he said, 'If you come down here, I'll doctor your children for free,'" Carrick said.
While there is a fund-raising element at Joy Fest in the quilt auction, organizers prefer to think of it as a "friend-raiser," as outreach to the community, he said. It's to welcome supporters and welcome back alumni and hear their stories.
Brand new for this year's event is the new stage in front of a hillside that will serve as an amphitheater, Carrick said. A group out of New York donated the labor needed to build the permanent stage.
The stage will host Justin Lookadoo from McKinney, Tex., invited to appear by Lean On Me ministries, which sponsors activities for youth in the community.
Lynn Funk of Lean On Me described Lookadoo as a dynamic, Christian speaker and best-selling author that has spoken at Resurrection in Gatlinburg for the last two years.
Lookadoo's web site is located at www.lookadoo.com.
Lean On Me has 2,000 tickets available for the occasion, Funk said. Organizers are asking for a $5 donation per ticket to help cover expenses.
Lookadoo will speak at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
"These two ministries came together because it’s all about the kids!” Funk said. "Lean On Me is a ministry that reaches out to the teens of the community to provide them with a positive alternative to keep them busy.
"We know you can’t reach a 15-year-old the same way you do a 60-year-old with God’s word," she continued. "This ministry is designed to show the teens in our area that, yes, you can be a Christian and have fun, too."
The stage will benefit Joy Ranch, but Carrick also sees it benefiting the community. He's talked to groups like the Blue Ridge Music Makers Guild and Chestnut Creek School of the Arts that may need a venue to put on a community performance.
Organizers are thinking about splitting any proceeds 70-30, with the 30 going to Joy Ranch, he explained. With for-profit groups, Carrick expects the split to be 50-50 between them and the children's home.
Joy Fest will also feature live music all day long and, between sets, former residents will share their stories from the microphone.
Christian Southern rock group 2nd Thief Ministries will take the stage.
Carrick encourages the public to attend the activities from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Joy Fest at the home at 813 Joy Ranch Road in Woodlawn.
• Justin Lookadoo tickets are available by contacting Tony Felts at (276) 237-4445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.