Community support sends Duty soaring with the breeze
Pickerington mom Rindy Duty was pining for that "one perfect day," both meteorologically and metaphorically, in which she could float above the city and feel some semblance of peace.
Having battled breast cancer for the past three years, with its accompanying grueling regimen of surgeries, chemical treatments and therapies, Duty would often commiserate with her friend and neighbor Julie Rosshirt about going up the air.
"Recently I said to her 'we have to have that perfect day no matter what it costs, we're going to do it,' " Duty said.
Tom Furlong of Balloon Master's Inc. is a balloon pilot, one of a few individuals in Ohio who has the specialized skills to safely operate a hot air balloon.
Furlong was told of Duty's story, of how she and her friend would often see the distinctive Keller Farms Landscape and Nursery balloons hover over Pickerington and say to themselves: "one perfect day we're going up."
He arranged for Duty and her sons Brennen and Mason, ages 11 and 15 respectively, along with Rosshirt, to all go up in the balloon for no charge.
Hot air balloons are tricky in that Mother Nature has to cooperate. Any weather report indicating blustery winds, fog or rain can scrap the mission.
The last day of September, however, proved perfect in more ways than one.
"It was wonderful," Duty said.
"It was so pristine, so relaxing.
"After all I've been through, just to go over the top of the community and see the trees changing and all the nature and life below me, it meant so much," Duty said.
Duty said she has Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
"I'm taking ongoing chemotherapy treatments to keep the cancer stable," she said.
Furlong's act of kindness was simply one of many performed by members of the greater Pickerington community during the course of duty's struggle.
She said it all started when Rosshirt offered her husband, Granville, a job when he no longer could work as an out-of-state trucker because of her illness.
"Upon that goodwill we've had many friends help us through the years," Duty said.
She cited a motorcycle rally called "Rindy's Rally, which took place in 2010, a holiday event held in her honor at the Pickerington Senior Center last December and a trip to Florida last spring sponsored by the Nicole Wilcox Foundation as some examples of community support.
Recently Como Landscaping of Pickerington showed up at her house unannounced with the her son's teammates from the Pickerington North High School boys soccer team in tow.
"They came and mulched my entire yard," Duty said.
She said she has been amazed by the support from "friends, neighbors and strangers alike."
Her friend Lori Bright has organized a rotating calendar for hot meals to be brought to her house "because I'm too weak to cook."
Her parents also have been at the ready, she said, steadfastly taking care of all the logistical issues as has her friend Jill Snyder and family.
"They help take my kids places and always make sure to get me a golf cart at my son's soccer games so I don't have to walk so far," Duty said.
She said she wants to thank the several Pickerington churches that have adopted her family as well as the Pickerington schools "that have helped my kids so much."
Duty could go on, of course, for the list is much, much longer.
The point is she is forever grateful "to this wonderful community" that has shown it is defined by more than an assemblage of houses and roads. To her Pickerington is family.
"I just want to thank the community so much," Duty said.