Our Family & the Story Behind the Story
The story of how Reach for the Stars Foundation came to be is really the story behind how our family came to be.
Chapter 1 The People Behind the Story
It began when Pat was working for Hewlett Packard (HP) in San Diego. As supporters of Reach for the Sky, a summer camp held in the mountains for children dealing with cancer, HP provided computers for the kids to work with. Pat first volunteered at the camp’s computer lab until a green, open field beckoned him. Deciding it was an ideal spot for his hot air balloon, the next summer (and every summer for the 21 years since then) Pat brought his hot air balloon and gave tethered rides to the campers.
A couple years after Pat began volunteering at the camp, Carol, a small business owner also from San Diego, began volunteering as the Arts and Crafts Director. As the story goes, the “Balloon Guy” and the “Arts & Crafts Lady” met one summer, flirted the next summer and then married the following summer! While this is jumping ahead in the timeline, they now live in southern California with their teenage son Riley.
Chapter 2 The Wheelchair Accessible Balloon
While the campers delightedly looked forward to their balloon rides, Pat noticed that several children had physical limitations that made it difficult or impossible to get into the balloon’s basket. Determined to overcome that obstacle, Pat set out to develop a fully accessible basket. As an engineer, he thoroughly researched wheelchair needs and specifications and then designed a wheelchair accessible basket complete with a wide removable door, lower side panels for increased visibility and floor mounted strips to securely hold the wheelchair in place. Although it took 7 years to work through the demands and requirements of Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA), the new basket received approval in 2000.
Of course a basket that special needed a very special envelope (that is what the fabric part of a hot air balloon is called.) Using the artwork of a young camper named Robbie as the basis for the design, Pat and Carol had a beautiful and colorful custom envelope made in Spain by UltraMagic Balloons. One side of the envelope has Robbie’s cartoon-ish figure of a child standing and reaching for the stars. The other side has the same child reaching for the stars, this time sitting in a wheelchair. The entire top is covered in bright yellow stars and the sides between the two figures have beautiful sunrise graphics. Together it makes a breathtaking and heartwarming impression.
Chapter 3 The Foundation
With the new envelope and basket in hand, Pat was granted status as a 501c3 non-profit foundation. Since then he has continued to expand his outreach to many different organizations and individuals with special needs from Special Olympics to Wounded Warriors. He has worked with children’s camp from Ohio to Washington State to the more local states of the southwest. Additionally Pat has participated at balloon festivals, schools and professional conferences.
Chapter 4 The Passing of the Torch
In 2015 Pat Murphy, the founder of Reach For The Stars Hot Air Balloon Foundation, decided to spend more time with his family and pass the torch to the Lynch Family.
The Lynch Family is full of pilots. Kim and David Lynch, commercial balloon pilots for over 30 years. Their love and passion for Ballooning has passed on to their adult children.
• Kristina Lynch Anhalt is a private balloon pilot
• Brian Lynch is a commercial balloon pilot
• Phil Anhalt, crew chief
The connection between the Murphy Family and the Lynch Family go back to the beginnings of designing a wheelchair accessible basket. The Lynch Family had a basket designed to carry 8 passengers that was later modified with full FAA approval by Murphy to allow a wheelchair passenger and space two standing passengers. That basket is one of two wheelchair accessible baskets in service today for Reach For The Stars. It is our hope that we will continue in the sharing the joy of flight with people of all abilities.
Pictured left to right
Kim Lynch, Brian Lynch, David Lynch, Kristina Lynch Anhalt, Philip Anhalt