Home > Family Stories > Child Cancer Survivors’ Spirits Lifted with Blimp Ride in Rome, NY

WSYR-TV, Rome, NY | August 29, 2015 – Central New York boy battling a rare disease got a special opportunity Saturday morning to ride in a 178-foot long helium blimp.

Chad Lown was diagnosed with Acute promyelocytic leukemia in December 2013.

The little boy is now in remission, but still has to undergo chemotherapy treatment at his home.

“The first 10 months he was in and out of the hospital were very hard,” says Chad’s grandma, Hope Christman. “They’re first time parents. They’re young but they’re doing an amazing job and he’s doing absolutely amazing.”

On Saturday morning, the 12 member crew that operates the DIRECTV helium blimp took Chad and his two parents up in the air for a 30 minute ride around Rome, NY.

“We got up about 6:30 this morning and cooked breakfast on the grill, and came on down,” says Amanda Riel, Chad’s mom. “It’s amazing but at the same time sad. He had the cancer, that’s why he was chosen for this opportunity. But we’re very grateful.”

A program called ‘Believe in Tomorrow’ sponsored the trip, an organization that sets up helium rides and other adventures for kids who have been critically ill or injured.

“It’s not something you can just purchase a ticket for, so it makes it extra special,” says Bret Viets, the blimp pilot. “It’s mostly to get their minds off other things. That’s what it’s for and that’s what it does.”

The DIRECTV blimp travels around the country to fly over large sporting and recreational events.

The crew is in town this weekend for the New York State Fair.

Story and video originally published by WSYR-TV on August 29, 2015.