Jill Vander-Putten Bonner's Family
Carole-Anne's Special Achievements

A much-needed lift

For 15 children with life-threatening diseases, a ride on Sanyo blimp offers a welcome diversion


July 10, 2005

Taking a break from chemotherapy treatments for lupus, Carole-Anne Bonner, 16, of West Babylon, filmed her mom and her brother as they rose 500 feet in the air in the Sanyo Lightship, then slowly floated from Republic Airport in Farmingdale toward Long Island's beaches.

"Because of her chemotherapy treatments we haven't been able to do much," Carole-Anne's mother, J.C. Bonner, said.

Bonner and 14 other children from Long Island with life-threatening diseases were given a "positive distraction" yesterday, said Alan Judd, chief pilot of operations for Sanyo Lightship. The Baltimore-based Believe in Tomorrow National Children's Foundation sponsored the event, free for the children and their families.

Carolyn Everitt, 39, of Hicksville, said she was happy that her son Alec, 6, could participate in this year's ride because they were unable to do so in previous years.

"About two years ago, we stood out in front of the blimp, but we couldn't ride it because the wind shifted," Everitt said. "I am happy we get a chance to do it now since he is older and can better understand it."

Alec has cataracts due to Lowe syndrome, a rare genetic condition.

Bonner, 33, said she was able to find the foundation during her work with Lupus Alliance.

"I had been busy placing other kids into wish foundations, and it was nice that I was able to do something for my own," Bonner said. "This gives her something to look forward to in between chemotherapy treatments."

Judd said he gets the most enjoyment out of helping children find positive memories.

"We do aerial displays and work with ESPN during football season, but the crew loves the days that we spend with these families the most," Judd said. "Studies show that a positive distraction can bring back positive memories and help alleviate some of the pain."

While the blimp ride was the Bonners' first activity with the foundation, they plan on participating in others.

"The foundation has a paid week vacation in Delaware and Maryland that we wanted to attend," J.C. Bonner said.

Carole-Anne Bonner had one word to describe her first activity with the foundation: "great."