How to transport 216 inflated balloons

Have you ever noticed that I seem to think it’s my civic duty as a blogger to give people random tips on things that most people will never need to know? It’s a very special gift I have.
Well, about 10 days ago, I was searching the Internet for the answer to an urgent question: How do you transport 216 inflated balloons?
I was in a panic, really. I needed to know the answer. And quick!
And now that I know the answer, I really feel I should blog about it. Because the thing about 216 balloons is this. When you buy them at the store and they are not yet inflated, they are quite small. I mean, think about it. You can hold three bags containing 72 balloons each in one hand if you really need to.
When I bought the balloons, the biggest question on my mind was not how I would transport them. It was: How will I blow them up?
Two days earlier, our church, The Sanctuary, got the incredible news that we were able to close on the facility that we have been hoping to purchase. If you read this blog post, you already know a little bit about the amazing journey we have been part of this year.
We have been on a roller coaster, really, the past nine months. But what has been so amazing is that every time we hit what seemed to be the most impossible obstacle, not only did God open the door, but it also worked out for our good. On Sept. 27, when our pastor and other leaders met with the seller and the bank, we still didn’t know whether we could really work out all of the terms to make it possible to purchase the facility. But once again, God came through!
So, that Thursday night we got the news that we had purchased the facility. And we wanted to wait until Sunday morning to surprise as many people as possible with the news.
I came up with the crazy idea that we should dump balloons and throw streamers from the catwalk in the auditorium. We should even recruit some high school students to help lead us in a “happy dance.” There were so many parts and pieces that needed to come together, and it all had to be done as much in secret as possible.
So, it seemed kind of like a secret mission to gather my kids together on a Saturday night and blow up 216 balloons. At first, we tried to use some little hand pumps I purchased at the party store. After about an hour of pumping like mad, we had only inflated about 50 balloons. Our arms were sore and tired, and WE were feeling just as deflated as the remaining pile of latex.
That’s when I took the balloons down into the basement and turned on the air compressor. Now, I was on to something. I was churning out balloons faster than a pitching machine can throw baseballs. The kids would run down to the basement and grab the balloons two at a time to deliver them to the family room. They created a sort of corral to keep the balloons from floating all over the place and then they took turns burying themselves in the mounds of balloons.

After several hours of joyous jumping in a sea of balloons, we needed to figure out how to package them. I grabbed a big black garbage bag and started stuffing.
Only four balloons would fit.
My heart sank.
I had 216 balloons in my family room, and I didn’t stop to consider WHAT I would put them in to get them to church the next morning. I started grabbing sheets from the linen closet and tried to wrap them up that way. We would stuff the balloons in one section of the sheet, only to watch others float out the other side. After only a few “sheet bags” of balloons, I ran out of the safety pins needed to hold them closed. I started tying the balloons together with yarn. That was also going to take longer than it did to inflate them!
Finally, I found a box with even bigger garbage bags, and these would at least hold six or seven balloons. We piled the entire living room full of black garbage bags full of latex and air.

Hmmm. Now I realized I had an even bigger problem. How many inflated balloons would fit in a van? My husband had been gone all day because his uncle gave him tickets to the Ryder Cup. They came home late that evening to find me moping in a house full of balloons, completely overwhelmed by the task of transporting them in less than 12 hours. He did what any smart husband would do. He turned to the Internet.
“What did it say?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing.”
“No! Seriously! WHAT did it say!” I asked again.
“It said you should inflate the balloons AT the location.”
Some party planner had published this valuable information on the Internet. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out you should inflate the balloons on location! But since our church meets in a high school and we can’t go there on a Saturday night, I really didn’t want to take the risk of trying to get there early enough to inflate the balloons before service. She also said that she typically can only transport 30 balloons in her SUV. Crud. I might not be a genius party planner but I’m good at word problems, and the answer to this one was pretty clear: “If Emily blows up 216 balloons in her basement and she can only transport 30 balloons at a time, what time will she need to get up to get all of the balloons there by the 10 a.m. service?”
Answer: Too early.
Ugh. Not only did we need to get them there in time for the service, they needed to be hidden on the catwalk before volunteers started arriving around 9 a.m.
Thankfully, Ms. Party Planner Smartypants wasn’t totally accurate. We were able to load all 216 balloons into three vans. And THEN all we had to do was get enough people to carry them up a huge spiral staircase, which leads to a ladder, which leads to the catwalk where we had to HIDE them from anyone who might look up.
Inflating the balloons was starting to sounds like the EASY part of this job. Thankfully, I was able to enlist the help of some amazing volunteers who did an incredible job pulling the whole thing together with very little notice. Seriously. These guys had to get really creative really fast, and they were amazing. Because if even one balloon escaped and randomly started floating to the ground before the appropriate time, it was going to be a … should I say it? … a bust.
And in the end it was all worth it. In fact, I’m kind of glad I didn’t think the whole thing through before I started. I might have missed out on a lot of fun!

We had an absolute blast making that surprise announcement. You can watch the video here:
My kids will always remember the night we got to blow up 216 balloons.
And we will definitely never forget the amazing work God did to make it all possible.

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