An area family rocked by the murders of two family members and a friend will seek to help others who have faced violent crimes by hosting a fund-raising balloon festival next week.

An area family rocked by the murders of two family members and a friend will seek to help others who have faced violent crimes by hosting a fund-raising balloon festival next week.

Last November, central Ohioans and people across the country learned of the unnerving story from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, where a 30-year-old unemployed ex-con named Matthew Hoffman killed and dismembered Tina Hermann, 32, her 11-year-old son, Kody Maynard, and Herrmann's best friend and neighbor, 41-year-old Stephanie Sprang.

He also kidnapped Hermann's 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Maynard, sexually assaulted her and held her hostage until authorities, after days of searching, raided Hoffman's home near downtown Mount Vernon and rescued her.

Now, Sarah and her family are seeking to empower victims of violent crimes and help them in any way.

On Aug. 5 and 6, the first Fairfield County Hot Air Balloon Festival to benefit the Tina Rose B. Herrmann and Kody Alexander Maynard Healing Hearts Memorial Fund will take place at the Fairfield County Airport, 3430 Old Columbus Road North in Carroll.

It will feature balloon launches and tethered balloon rides, but the real purpose will be to remember Tina and Kody, while also raising money to help victims of violent crimes.

"It will go out to honor Tina and Kody," said Barb Hermann, Tina's mother and Kody and Sarah's grandmother. "Their deaths were a tragedy, but from this tragedy, we hope that we can help others.

"We want to say to any victim of violence, it's enough going through it and surviving, but there are avenues you can turn to."

On both Aug. 5 and 6, public viewing and sunrise balloon launches will be held at 6 a.m. Public viewing and sunset balloon launches also will be held both days at 6 p.m.

Additionally, tethered balloon rides for the public will be held both days from 6 to 8 p.m., and a Sunset Glow Flight, where spectators can see their favorite hot air balloons illuminated in the darkness, will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. each evening.

Family activities also will take place throughout the evening on both nights.

Proceeds from the event will go to the memorial fund, and money from the fund will be distributed to violent crime survivors. The fund's foundation will determine who receives financial support after reviewing individual situations, but the money can go toward anything from counseling to help with paying bills.

"It's to raise money for victims and survivors of family violence," said Kim Donnelly, Tina Hermann's cousin and a board member of the memorial fund foundation. "It's really meant to help them get through a difficult time."

Tina and Kody's family chose the Fairfield County Airport as a staging ground for balloon festival, which they intend hold annually, because Tina at one time lived in Canal Winchester and attended high school in Pataskala. Many family members also live in or near Fairfield County.

Tina's uncle, Bernie Fleming, is a Pickerington resident and owner of Keller Landscape and Nursery, which is based in Carroll and has a seasonal business in Pickerington. He's a hot-air balloon enthusiast, so the decision to include balloon rides was a no-brainer for the family.

Sarah, now 14, lives in nearby Columbus with her father.

"Sarah's a real live wire, just like her mother," Barb Hermann said. "But this is still fresh in her mind. It's only been eight months."

In addition to encouraging people to attend the festival, organizers currently are seeking event sponsors and donations to the memorial fund. Information can be obtained online at www.tinakodyandsarah.org, or by calling 740-654-8451.

"They all touched so many lives when they were alive," Barb Hermann said. "Now, they'll be able to touch people after they're gone. I also want to help people because it helps me."