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Blowing hot air for kids

KINGSTON — You can measure the size of the famous RE/MAX hot air balloon in different ways.

It can be measured by cubic feet, as it is 77,000 cubic feet. Or by basketballs, as 77,000 basketballs could fit inside it.

Compared to buildings, it’s 60-feet tall, 50-feet wide and three stories tall when fully inflated.

Deflated, it packs away neatly in a four-foot by four-foot bag.

But to those who took a ride in the billowing red, white and blue aircraft at Kola Kole Park Saturday, how it could be measured didn’t really matter — it was an all-around impressive sight in any shape, size or form.

And it was soaringly popular among residents, which was a good sign for the North Kitsap Boys & Girls Club.

Saturday’s event, in which attendees could pay a donation for a tethered ride, raised more than $800 for the nonprofit organization.

The balloon was the NKB&G Club’s second big fund-raiser as it entered its third year of operation; the group’s summer money maker was the Early Irons car show in Port Gamble, in which more than $5,000 was raised. The next event will be the Kingston Kiwanis and Kingston-North Kitsap Rotary Garage Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 8 at Kingston Junior High.

The idea to use the balloon as a fund-raiser came from RE/MAX real estate professional and Kingston resident Dave Muller. Each RE/MAX office is allowed to free use of the balloon once a year and Muller thought it could help raise money for a local organization.

“Make it a visible event for a group,” he said. “RE/MAX is going to be a part of the community, this is a good indicator of what we are about.”

Fifty tickets were pre-sold before Saturday, and an additional 25 were sold the day of the event, Muller estimated.

“(But) it’s not so much about the money — it’s to make an event out of it,” he said.

While funding for the club is secure for the year, club chairman Dan Price said Saturday’s event was to help raise funds for another major NK Boys & Girls Club project.

“This is the kick off,” Price said. “This is capital money for renovating the Old Kingston Schoolhouse.”

This past summer, Price suggested that Kitsap County, which owns the historical schoolhouse, allow the club to raise money to renovate the second floor of the building and use it as headquarters for the organization. Currently, the club is based out of Kingston Junior High.

The weekend’s event coincided with the group’s opening day Monday, in which new director Gail Swain took the helm.

Swain plans to offer a wide variety of activities for members, including sports, drama, art, cooking, movies, golf, horseback riding, chess club, guitar lessons, as well as teach the kids health, life, character, leadership, education and career skills.

“We’re just really looking forward to offering new programs for kids to grow and learn,” she said.

The club meets right after school at KJH until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, however, Swain hopes soon to extend it to Friday.

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