Up, up and away with virtual balloon race to help Sutton schools
In this Covid-stricken era, we are all used to doing things virtually and online. Everyday tasks from shopping to chatting with friends.
But how about a balloon race on the web? And what’s more, one that raises thousands of pounds for good causes. How on earth does that work?
Well, the Rotary Club of Sutton-in-Ashfield have the answer because it is holding a virtual balloon race next month to help buy vital IT equipment for local primary schools.
Chris Dawes, president of the 91-year-old club, takes up the story.
"A virtual balloon race works in the same way as a physical balloon race, but the balloons fly around a webpage, rather than in the atmosphere,” he explained.
"We are running it in conjunction with a company called Ecoracing, who are staging a national balloon race, The Coronation Race, for seven days, starting on Wednesday, June 2.
"You simply buy a balloon for £3 on the EcoRacing website, and our race is held within the national event.
"The balloon that has travelled the furthest in our race will win £100, with second third prizes of £50 and £25. The first prize for the national race is £500.
"It’s a bit of fun, but a unique bit of fun and, at the same time, everyone who enters is helping the local community.”
It isn’t just about luck, however. For when you select your balloon, you can customise it in a number of ways to make it your own. These include shaping it, decorating it, putting helium into it and deciding on the thickness of the rubber.
During the race itself, Ecoracing uses real weather data to determine how each balloon moves a random distance every day.
"This is where the element of skill comes in,” said Chris.
"The race will be launched from Westminster Abbey and where it goes will depend on both the weather conditions of each day and how your balloon has been created.
"You can track your balloon as it is carried by the wind. It might end up somewhere in Europe. It might even burst!”
The race is one of the major fundraising activities of 2021 by the club, which has been badly hit by the Covid pandemic.
Chris said: “Our Christmas Sleigh tours of the streets of Sutton are normally our main event.
"But although we could do the tours, we couldn’t knock on doors or collect any money.
"As a result of the pandemic, we are about £10,000 down on fundraising.”
The club hopes to raise £2,000 from the virtual balloon race, which has already been well supported, with 132 balloons sold so far.
From the grand total raised. the club plans to buy tablets for youngsters at primary schools in Sutton.
It has also promised to match and then double the amount of money generated by each school through buying balloons.
Chris added: “We are conscious that schools are struggling for equipment.
"Recently, we bought some tablets for children at Hillocks Primary School, and we thought we could roll that out to others in the area.
"After the Covid lockdowns, the idea is to buy equipment that pupils can use at home.”
If you would like to take part in the virtual balloon race, the link is https://ecoracing.co/user/page/1656