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A Little Gratitude Goes a Long, Long Way

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A little gratitude can go a long way.

That is what students at the Jefferson Elementary School in Springfield, Ill., discovered when they launched 540 helium-filled balloons last November to say thanks to the people of Springfield for approving a property-tax referendum to support the community's public schools.

The launch was engineered by Melinda LaBarre, adviser to the student council, who suggested that each balloon contain a card with the name of a student, the address of the school, and a simple "thank you" to local voters.

Then the cards began returning--first from nearby counties and next from as far away as Peoria, about 70 miles north of Springfield. Eventually, word came that a farmer on the Walpole Island Indian Reservation near Wallaceburg, Ontario, had found one of the balloons the day after the launch.

Three construction workers found another balloon near Research Triangle Park outside Durham, N.C. Another was found by schoolchildren in Hamilton, Ohio, and others turned up in Wisconsin and Virginia.

Although a forecaster for the National Weather Service said it is quite rare for balloons to travel that far and wide, Jefferson students continue to receive queries from finders. "They want to know what they were being thanked for," Ms. LaBarre said.

Meanwhile, the students have reaped some educational benefits from the experience--namely, lessons in geography, meteorology, and letter writing.

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