CHADWICK, Mo. – A family in Chadwick, Missouri is still shocked.
Tom and Ashley Ruggles’ oldest son Kalel passed away in January 2023 from complications with Type 1 diabetes.
Honoring his memory, they released balloons into the southwest Missouri sky on Easter weekend.
“I thought that was a really good idea.” Ashley Ruggles said. “It’s kind of one last message that everybody can write.” Tom Ruggles added.
However, they didn’t think the balloon would have traveled to where it did.
Enter the Arrowhead Resort in Spring City, Tennessee.
The general manager of the resort says he took to social media once he was aware of the balloon landing in a bush.
“Once I made the post to try and find this family, it really tugged on my heartstrings from want to give them an opportunity to get away and heal.” Norman McCowan said.
The power of social media took over and within days, the Ruggles were connected with the business that found the balloon created to honor their son.
“By the time I got home that day, I had upwards of 30, 40 people. Hey, did you see this? Hey, is this you?” Ashley said.
The Ruggles say the 15-year-old freshman in the Chadwick School District was active in Track, FFA, and enjoying the outdoors.
“It’s just so ironic that it was his balloon that was found, and he loved to be outdoors,” Ashley Ruggles said. “[He] had been talking about [how he] can’t wait to go fishing, can’t wait to be outdoors again, ready for the warmth and for that, you know, for it to land in a place where they fish a lot, it’s just kind of meant to be. For me, it was him telling us I’m okay, you know.”
Kalel’s love for the outdoors is something McCowan says he not only didn’t know about but felt it made sense given Arrowhead Resort is primarily a fishing destination.
“No way, no way that’s really cool,” McCowan said. “That’s really cool. Every day since I found the balloon, it’s really got my heart and I think that’s really special that fishing was special to him. This is a fishing resort and had been a fishing resort since 1962.”
The resort has offered the Ruggles family a free stay, something they say they’re eager to do down the road.
“I’m almost positive we’ll feel his presence there for sure and know he’s there. I mean, he wants us to come there.” Ashley Ruggles said. For it to cross state lines with his name on it and be all over social media and now the news. I mean, he won’t be forgotten.”
As for the balloon, McCowan says it had deflated after photos of it were taken and say it was initially thrown away.
After McCowan’s interview with KOLR 10, he went through the resort’s trash, found it, and say he will hang onto it for the Ruggles family. Tom and Ashley say they can’t wait to see the balloon again.