That is definitely the most common I am asked! I started when I was nine years old.
How did you get started? What was your first balloon creation?
And that is the second most-asked question! I was once told that most great stories involving men have something to do with a lady, and for me that was very true. Just before my ninth birthday I had a big crush on this girl in my school, and I was thrilled when she invited me to her church for a Clown School that was starting. (Now I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no, the girl and I never got together!) Well, I mainly went for the girl but this idea of a clown school did sound interesting, and as it went on for the next three months I really started to enjoy it. I especially liked all of the physical comedy it involved – you know, running into walls and falling down and stuff (both of which I still do now as an adult… sometimes even on purpose!) Anyway, toward the end of this School we learned how to make balloon dogs. So there you go – my first balloon creation was a dog.
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So did you want to become a clown after that?
Well after the School, my dad and some of the others who’d been in it decided to start a clown group at our own church. I really enjoyed it, and we even went on a performing missions trip to Siberia in 1993, but I began to realize that it wasn’t really for me – I mean, one of the things you just can’t fake in life is being a clown. So no, my clown ambitions didn’t last long.
What did you do after that?
We had a family friend who as a magician, and right about the time I realized I wasn’t meant to be a clown, he told me about this creative arts camp for teenage boys. Naturally, as a teenage boy, I jumped at the chance to spend a week away from my parents! So I signed up – little knowing what was in store for me!
So how did you come back to balloons?
Well, the camp was awesome and I learned all kinds of things like juggling, chalk art, magic, puppetry and more. But I still didn’t feel really connected to any of it. And then, on the very last day of camp, the topic was balloons. Now at this time, I had still only made that balloon dog at Clown School so I obviously put myself in the Beginner’s Class at camp. But we were barely getting started when the camp leader came over to me, took me by the back of the neck, and kindly pushed me over into the Advanced Class! I didn’t know what was happening then, but he told me later that, in his 20 years of leading that camp, he had never done that to a camper (and never did since), but then he had never seen anything like what I was doing. I didn’t know I was doing anything special – all I knew at the time was that, with a balloon in my hand, something had just clicked inside me. It was like I woke up and realized I was doing something I really loved. I learned a lot in that Advanced Class that day, but it was only the beginning. Two weeks later I was on another missions trip, this time in Mexico, and creating all kinds of balloon animals and shapes and just loving it.
How did you learn more about balloons after that?
The only place to really learn about balloons was still in the world of clowning, so shortly after I returned from Mexico I started attending every clowning conference I could find and learning everything they had to offer about balloons. I was very fortunate that several of the instructors there saw the same love and passion for ballooning in me that that camp leader had seen, and they really took a great interest in me and invested a lot of their time and expertise into training me. I will always be grateful to them.
To read the rest of the story check out the ministry page.