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AUSTINTOWN Balloon launch prompts a friendly return



Published: Mon, April 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Money donated by the couple will be spent on something for the entire school, an assistant principal says.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AUSTINTOWN -- The balloon dangled above the driveway for three weeks before curiosity finally got the best of Marvin Lutz.

"He just finally couldn't stand it anymore," said Marvin's wife, Debbie. "He had to see what it was about."

Attached to the balloon, which was caught in a tree above the couple's driveway in Bedford, Pa., was a note from Austintown Middle School fifth-grader Chelsie Huntington. The note stated that the balloon had been launched as part of an event celebrating the 100th day of school.

"Education is important because it lets kids have a better future!!" Chelsie wrote in the note. Bedford is near the Maryland border in south-central Pennsylvania, about 175 miles from Austintown.

The note asked whoever found the balloon to "share one idea of why you think school should be celebrated."

"I knew there was a little girl somewhere wondering what happened to her balloon," Lutz said.

A message and donation

In their response to the note, which Chelsie received April 9, the Lutzes wrote that they felt a good education is an important part of building a better future. They also sent a check for $100 to Chelsie and her classmates to help with their celebration of the 100th day of school.

"Thanks for letting us be a part of it," they wrote.

Chelsie, 11, said she was surprised when she received the letter and check from the Lutzes.

"I didn't think anyone would see it," she said. Chelsie noted that she wants to be a physical therapist, and that she feels the exercises she learns in gym and the work she does in math will help her in her career.

Lisa Marucci, a fifth-grade teacher at Austintown Middle, said pupils have received about a dozen responses to the notes attached to the balloons. A total of 100 balloons were launched as part of the Feb. 7 celebration.

"They were all very positive responses, as far as what they felt, how they felt about education," said Marucci, who worked with fifth-grade teachers Jennifer McMahon and Marijo Matune to organize the celebration. She said most of the responses came from Pennsylvania or Maryland.

All pupils to benefit

Austintown Middle Assistant Principal Chris Berni added, "It's encouraging to receive notes of support affirming what we do here." He said that while the school administration wasn't sure how to spend the $100, it would benefit all pupils.

Debbie and Marvin Lutz are the owners of Cycle Outlet, a business that sells used motorcycles and motorcycle parts in Cumberland, Md. In their response to Chelsie, the couple writes that they use the math, reading and writing skills they learned in school each day in their business. Debbie has a college degree, and Marvin graduated from high school.

In addition, the response also notes that the couple uses skills they learned in art and music classes to design advertisements.

"I know it's hard getting up and going to school," Debbie told a reporter Thursday. "It is worthwhile, and put as much as you can into it.

"It defines who you are and what you're going to be," she said. "It determines your future."

hill@vindy.com




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