The Balloon Mission, a nonprofit founded at the end of last year by North Merrick resident Cynthia Seibold, has launched several initiatives across Bellmore-Merrick, with high hopes for the future.
Seibold, who has a background in insurance underwriting, told the Herald last December that during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she spent a lot of time outdoors, and noticed the accumulation of debris from helium balloons at many of Long Island’s parks and beaches.
Recognizing that this was a problem, she set out to see what could be done. A few years later, the Balloon Mission was formed, with a goal to educate the community of the damage balloons can have on the environment, and offer solutions for the future.
“Our program is to collect balloons before they end up on the land and in oceans, reducing our carbon footprint and the harmful microplastics that are generated from balloons,” Seibold said. “And for every balloon that is sold and responsibly collected, we feel it’s going to be one less piece of litter that’s harming our wildlife.”
Seibold told the Herald last week that while the nonprofit doesn’t necessarily support balloon usage, change takes time, and as an environmental organization, they understand that. “It is more important to message why balloons are harmful and to raise awareness for alternatives for celebrating,” she added. “Providing a balloon collection program is a real way to bring people together towards real change for the environment.”
One of Seibold’s goals last year was to get into local schools, and start spreading the message of her organization to younger generations. Her children are graduates of the North Merrick School Union Free School District, and the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, and that was the perfect place for her to start.
“We’ve proudly launched our balloon collection program,” she said, adding that collection bins would be placed in North Merrick’s elementary schools, and the middles schools and high schools of the Central District. “Both school districts and their superintendents were excited about the Balloon Mission and supporting the environment.
“We’re excited to be sharing our message, and raising awareness among thousands of students and families.”
Seibold and her daughter, Jillian, a recent graduate of Sanford H. Calhoun High School, took time this month to visit local elementary schools for an assembly.
“Our audiences were totally engaged and responsive throughout the 25-minute program,” she explained. “There was a collective ‘wow’ when we showed all the places balloons could travel to and where they ended up.
“They gasped in horror when we showed them turtles and birds tangled in balloon ribbons — we gently, and with great empathy, showed why these animals don’t survive when they encounter balloons.”
Seibold said the support of her daughter has been tremendous. An alum of Calhoun’s On Tour specialty drama program, Seibold said her daughter’s experience on stage has helped her get out of her comfort zone, and face audiences of over 400 students.
Some things taught to the students included how they could safely and quietly pop discarded balloons with safety scissors, and to understand that not everyone may be ready to join the Balloon Mission. Seibold also said in general, it was emphasized that picking up litter is a great way to help the environment.
Seibold is building a relationship with the Long Island Children’s Museum, and its new Environmental Task Force, she said. She’s also set for a radio interview with Nassau Community College’s station, sometime in March.
“People are really responding to the mission,” Seibold said, “and we couldn’t be happier.”
Seibold said the nonprofit is looking to partner with children’s event spaces and balloon sellers or designers, to join the effort and become a “Pop-n-Drop” balloon collection site. Any business that participates will be listed on Balloon Mission’s website as an organization that is partnering with the nonprofit to be sustainable and green.
The Balloon Mission’s partner, ACDS, formerly known as the Association for Children with Down Syndrome, is also collecting deflated balloons at their Merrick and Plainview locations, and will repurpose them responsibly.
Any questions for Seibold, or to host a bin, email email@example.com.