Reta Warren, 96, took to the skies early Wednesday morning on her first hot air balloon ride, something she had wanted to do since she was a child.

Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care program Gift of the Day granted Warren her wish and Central Bank of Sedalia sponsored the balloon ride. BalloonStormers, of Columbia, provided that balloon, which took off from the E.W. Thompson Health & Rehabilitation Center parking lot at 7 a.m.

Warren sailed away to blue skies and mild weather with Addison Eckles, a Crossroads Hospice social worker, and BalloonStormers pilot Gary Sines.

Eckles said Warren has been her patient for some time.

“I get to visit about once or twice month with her,” Eckles said. “Whenever I first meet with my patients, I always tell them about the Gift of the Day Program and give them some ideas and see what they like.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve even said anything about a hot air balloon ride, because nobody takes me up on it. But, as soon as I said the word, her eyes got big, and she looked at her son, and she was just ready. She’s a very sweet lady, very deserving of this.”

Erica Petersen, with Central Bank of Sedalia’s business development and marketing, said this was the first time for the bank to sponsor a wish for Crossroads.

“This is so exciting,” she noted. “We are just so excited to be able to help out.”

When asked why she wanted to fly in a balloon Warren replied, “I just want to be up in the air.”

Warren, who has a flare for adventure, said she isn’t afraid of heights and had been in a helicopter before. She noted that she was excited and only a “little” nervous about the morning’s adventure.

Warren’s son Jim Arnold, of Fulton, daughter Barbara Manifold, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and a niece Shirley Brown, of Sedalia, all were on hand to watch the balloon lift-off.

“She’s always been a little bit of a thrill-seeker,” Arnold said.

“She’s always been the first one on the roller coaster,” Manifold added. “She would ride until the last one quit. She always liked that.”

Both Arnold and Manifold said with smiles that they didn’t receive the extreme thrill-seeking gene belonging to their mother.

“I’ve reached an age where I don’t want to do it, but she’s still game,” Manifold added laughing.

Due to declining health issues Warren’s children had recently moved her to E.W. Thompson.

“She can’t stay by herself anymore,” Manifold said. “So, we’ve moved her over here to one little room. It’s been very difficult. So, hospice came along and says ‘what would you like to do? Tell me something you’d like to do,’ and, she said ‘a balloon ride.’”

Manifold said her mother enjoys adventure so much that she thought she might pick skydiving as her wish. Although she’s facing health issues, Warren was full of smiles Wednesday as she prepared to fly way into the blue.

For more information about Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care and the Gift of a Day program, call 816-333-9200 or visit www.crossroadshospice.com or Facebook at Crossroads Hospice.

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Video Caption:Reta Warren, 96, waits for a hot air balloon to inflate early Wednesday morning. Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care program Gift of the Day granted Warren her wish to fly in a balloon. The ride was sponsored by Central Bank of Sedalia.
Video Credit:Faith Bemiss | Democrat
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