Hot air balloons, jets, kites and skydivers will all fly over Ripon on Saturday and Sunday in a show of support for the Children’s Hospital of Central California. Color the Skies balloon festival will offer two days of family entertainment and fundraising activities this Labor Day weekend. And presiding over all the festivities will be Adham Hamza, a Turlock resident and ambassador for Children’s Hospital Central California.
Hamza was chosen by the hospital to represent them at the festival. He will be present for activities on both days of the festival, and on Saturday he will get to take a ride in a hot air balloon during the balloon launching. His balloon will be tethered, so that he can enjoy the view from the sky but return to earth in time to have a full day at the festival.
Hamza has been a patient at Children’s Hospital for most of his 7 years of life. The third grader was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was a baby, and has been undergoing chemotherapy ever since. He was visiting Children’s Hospital in Madera on a regular basis for treatment, but his mother, Areeje Hamza, said that he is doing well and is currently taking a break from chemotherapy.
“Being off (of chemo) for this long hasn’t happened for Adham ever,” Areeje said.
Adham is very outgoing, and Areeje said that he loves talking to anyone who will listen. He is fluent in both Arabic and English, and is learning Spanish in the dual immersion program at Osborn Elementary School. He is also being tutored in French at home. Undergoing chemotherapy treatments has not dampened Adham’s enthusiasm for life.
“He gets very excited about things and he’s very social. He was so excited about the event and he has been asking about it,” Areeje said.
Adham will have plenty to be excited about at Color the Skies. This is the event’s fifth year, and it has grown beyond being just a hot air balloon festival. The event now includes a 5k run, a jet team demonstration, skydiving, a Zumba-thon and even a Journey tribute band. Event coordinator Jessica Coleman said that an ambassador is chosen every year to represent patients at the festival.
“It’s a way to give something back to a child who has gone through a challenging time,” Coleman said.
Color the Skies is a free event, but $5 donations are accepted for convenient parking. The event also raises money through its “Rise.Shine.Give.RUN” race and pancake breakfast. There are also games and activities that families can participate in by purchasing tickets. The event has become more popular each year, and Coleman has the support of corporate sponsors and volunteers. All proceeds from the event will go to Children’s Hospital Central California, which has a campus in Madera.
“Children’s Hospital does take care of kids from all over the Central Valley. It’s amazing because you don’t have to leave the hospital, all of the specialists you need to see are right there,” Coleman said.
The Hamza family has found Children’s Hospital to be supportive throughout Adham’s treatment. He likes all four of his doctors, and Areeje said that she likes the idea of supporting an event that will raise money to the hospital.
“We have seen a lot of love in that hospital,” Areeje said.
Color the Skies starts at 6 a.m. with a pancake breakfast. Hot air balloon inflation and launch is scheduled from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., and the Rise.Shine.Give.RUN starts at 7 a.m. All events will be held at the Mistlin Sports Park on River Road in Ripon. A full schedule of events and tickets are available at colortheskies.com.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.