Key Workers Joy at Balloon Flight

On the 6th September, Bristol awoke to the glorious sight of balloons flying over the city. A vision of joy for a city who has missed this ‘normality’ over the pandemic. The fly out was the brainchild of local balloonist Derek Maltby who wanted to give back to key workers and carers from the region.


3 key workers share with us their thoughts of the experience. 


Abi Elliot works South West Ambulance Service as a student paramedic and is studying the UWE conversion course. Abi was nominated by her friend Hayley Lovannelli, as in addition to being a key worker was juggling childcare for her 4- year old, managing the household and helping with elderly relatives.


“Thank you for the incredible experience that I had; I think I’ve yet to come down from the high that I had.! Everything was really well thought out, planned and implemented!

My pilot, Rob Schwab and his crew were incredibly friendly, approachable, knowledgeable, and put me at ease straight away (I’m scared of heights). Everything was just perfect, and I can’t praise them enough. It was a beautiful flight, with a chance to be hands on at the end by mucking in and helping with all the packing away, part of the overall experience. I think it would be true to say if I could afford to get involved more, I would genuinely love to do more ballooning. Once again, big ‘thank you’s’ to everyone involved, one item on my bucket list well and truly crossed off!” Abi Elliott


Melissa Whitley nominated herself for the balloon ride after hearing Derek speak on Radio Somerset. A special educational needs teaching assistant from Street, Melissa is a single parent for her 8-year-old son. 


“My balloon ride was a truly magical experience. I have never experienced anything like it and once my initial nerves went, I loved floating up, in and with the elements.

At a very stressful time this was a beautiful gift of surprise and wonder. I could sense the excitement & pleasure on the faces of the others who got to experience it. I would love to send Derek and the team, deep gratitude for their thinking of others. What a generous guy and bunch of people!” Melissa Whitley 


Matt Hutchins was nominated by his brother-in-law Jonathan Flower. Matt is a psychiatric nurse for the NHS at Weston-Super-Mare and his flight was a surprise. Mental health has been challenging for many more people during lockdown and Matt has had lots of extra challenges with meeting clients, helping them understand new parameters, while juggling childcare and being married to another full-time key worker 



“It was such a fabulous surprise to find out I was lucky enough to be offered a flight, and so generous of all of the balloon teams and all the organisers to give up their time and energy to make it happen. I had no idea that key worker flights were even happening, let alone that I’d been nominated so it really was a surprise to be invited to fly. Massive thank you to Ashley and Andy, pilot and crew for the balloon – ‘Wes the Wolf’, for such an amazing experience.”


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