While frontline health care workers are working hard to care for COVID-19 hospital patients, some local hospitals are receiving a nice surprise during the hectic days with a colorful drawn-out display of balloons.
Luft Balloons, a Chicago-based business known for its balloon arrangements, has shifted the usual routine to help give back. In April, the company launched a new campaign called “Frontline Joy” with a mission to create large balloon installations for Chicagoland hospitals. Displays have already appeared at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Lakeview and Loyola University Medical Center, and installation for the next one at Rush University Medical Center will begin on Wednesday.
“The idea is to soften the exterior the hospital. The outside makes it feel ominous,” says Elaine Frei, founder of Luft Balloons and a Chicago parent. “When you put balloons, it almost humanizes things.”
Like many other small businesses, Frei saw a sharp decline in work since the majority of her company’s profits came from events, now canceled due to the COVID-19 concerns. Quickly, she began to create new packages to help reach customers at home including a “Zoom Balloon” to add a fun backdrop to your video calls and “Bag ‘O Fun!” filled with balloons to entertain your kids while stuck inside.
“During that time, we were starting to see growth and support,” Frei adds. “And since we are able to pay our employees and keep the lights on, I thought, let’s give back.”
She decided to do what her company does best, and began to develop an idea to create balloon installations for these hospitals during the global pandemic. Frei started a GoFundMe page to crowdfund for supplies and has raised more than $6,100 so far. She has even hired paid collaborators to help support struggling artists right now.
“I feel like we were meant to do this during this pandemic. It’s part of our soul,” Frei says. “Our tagline is ‘Bring the joy’ and that’s why if we don’t do this, we’re missing the point.”
Frei added that Luft Balloons plans to continue to decorate hospitals as long as her team is able to. Her next step is to find companies that can sponsor the Frontline Joy balloon installations.
“[The hospitals] are so excited.” Frei says. “All I want to do is bring their workers joy.”
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