, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

December 29, 2012

Heartfelt message travels across country via balloons

NEDERLAND — A heartfelt balloon message penned by two Nederland area children in honor of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary crossed hundreds of miles and landed in a Florida yard on Christmas Day.

Shawn and Calvin Nguyen, ages 11 and 9, launched the bunch of more than two dozens balloons and note after a small ceremony in their backyard on Christmas Eve. Susan Elmore, of Gainsville, Fla., found the balloons attached to her fence on Dec. 25.

“I saw the balloons and thought someone had had a party and lost the balloons,” Elmore said via phone with The News. “Then I read the note and it blew me away. Oh my gosh, it touched my heart. It was written in a child’s handwriting and the balloons were in honor of the shooting victims.”

Elmore plans to keep the balloons and the note, she said.

“It (message) drive it home,” she said. “I was part of something awesome and touching.”

Shawn Nguyen explained the reasoning behind their special gesture.

“We sent the balloons because when we first heard about it we were sad and angry; who would do that to innocent kids,?” Shawn Nguyen said while seated on his family sofa next to his brother.

Their mother, Kim Nguyen, tried to shield the young children from the tragic news. The mother usually watches the news and decided to put the TV on the Disney Channel so the children wouldn’t learn of the shootings. The day following the shooting she gave them a simple explanation aimed to protect them from the violence and sadness.

She told them that bad guys went into the school and stole all of the children’s party items, knowing that students usually have a party before Christmas break.

Shawn, she said, wondered why someone would do that.

The children, she learned, found out about the shooting not from their teachers or school but from one of their friends.

“They asked me ‘what can we do?’ and I said keep them in your heart and remember them in prayer,” she said. “You cannot put yourself first, put others before yourself.”

The siblings got together and realized that the children of Sandy Hook would not be around for the holidays and their parents would not see them open Christmas gifts.

After some planning Kim Nguyen went out and purchased more than two dozen balloons representing the victims and the boys worked on the note. Calvin is the one who penned the writing.

Before opening any gifts on Christmas Eve, the whole family; father Vu, mother Kim and the two children, went outside, held hands and said a prayer before letting the balloons loose.

“We have children ourselves,” Vu Nguyen said. “And there’s nothing we can do to really help them (parents who lost their children in the shooting). I feel for the families in Connecticut.”

The elder brother said he researched the jet steam and wasn’t surprised the balloons traveled so far although he hoped it would have reached the Connecticut town.

WCJB TV-20 ABC affiliate in Florida reported on Elmore’s discovery and contacted The News in hopes of finding the children. The note was signed “Shawn and Calvin. Nederland Tx.”

The News called Nederland Independent School District’s secretary to the superintendent Sheila Davis — who was off work for the holidays — to search for the identity of the children. Davis worked on a hunch, cross referenced first names and learned there were only four NISD children with the first name Calvin and three of them were in high school. She also learned Calvin had a brother named Shawn and soon she was in contact with the family with the happy news.

Calvin Nguyen is a third grader at Langham Elementary and Shawn Nguyen is a sixth grader at Central Middle School.

The WCJB story can be found at


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