PLAINVILLE — For Melanie Ouellette and her family, this year’s Plainville Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival was more than a photo op. It was a chance to make precious memories with her grandson, Axel Sundberg, who was diagnosed with leukimia two years ago.
Sundberg, 10, has spent the last year in isolation for a bone marrow transplant procedure and Ouellette said getting to the festival was a big step. He was released from the hospital that same morning, after a week stay, which had closely followed a months-long stay.
“He’s just starting to do things like this and this is a big thing for him because he’s not respondnig too well to the treatments so it’s only a matter of time before nothing works anymore,” said Ouellette, Sundberg’s primary caretaker.
“So these are just very meaningful moments,” she said.
Even though his family has lived just a just a few blocks from the park his whole life, it was Sundberg’s first ride in a balloon.
“He was terrified, absolutely terrified at first … but once he got up there he liked it,” Ouellette said.
Ouellette joined Sundberg in a tethered-balloon ride in the RE/MAX balloon Friday night, along with two family friends. A friend of Ouellette had won the free ride and offered it to the family.
Balloon pilot Bruce Buiberg and his crew did the ride special for Sundberg and his group, since they weren’t doing any other balloon rides that night.
It was up to Sundberg to decide how long to stay floating a few hundred feet in the air, overlooking the crowded park and other giant hot air balloons nearby.
“We stayed up for about 10 minutes. He was loving it,” said Buiberg.
Buiberg said the RE/MAX balloon usually only does rides for corporate employees or charitable endeavors, like auction winners, but he’s made a point to bring the balloon to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for the last 15 years. The camp provides a fun, safe place for kids with serious illness to spend time free of cost to the family.
He said he was more than happy to accomodate Axel and his family Friday evening.