When Kathie Taylor organised a balloon launch in memory of her late husband, the event captured imaginations around the world. Friends, family, supporters, and even strangers from as far afield as South Africa and Mexico all let balloons drift off into the skies in memory of Mark Haydn Taylor. The Star’s Chris Baynes reports.
THE family and friends of Mark Haydn Taylor may not have been the first to think of releasing balloons in memory of a loved one.
But they certainly added a unique twist.
For at the same time that Mark’s widow Kathie, his son Cole, and other family members were letting go of their strings in their Handsworth garden, blue and white balloons were soaring high over the exotic skies of Mexico, South Africa and Australia - to name only a few.
More than 150 people worldwide joined in celebrations for what would have been the 50th birthday of the Sheffield dad, who died two years ago after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
In doing so they also raised hundreds of pounds for the charity he set up in his final months.
The launch was organised by 48-year-old Kathie, who invited friends and family to take snaps of themselves setting off balloons and make a contribution to the Mark Haydn Taylor Cancer Research Fund for each one.
The response exceeded all her expectations.
Kathie was bombarded with pictures of friends, family and even strangers taking part as far afield as Cape Town, Cancun Bay in Mexico, Florida, Tenerife and Rhodes in Greece.
Many of them were launching balloons in the colours of Mark’s beloved Sheffield Wednesday.
She said: “It went brilliantly. We’ve had pictures sent in from all over the world.
“I’m a travel agent so we’ve got friends dotted about all over the place. We’ve had 150 photos sent in - some of them from people who I haven’t seen for 30 years and some from people who I don’t even know - people who had just heard about it through Facebook.
“So there were quite a few surprises.
“Everybody went to a lot of effort. It means a lot to me that they took the time to do it.”
Not all those who took part were in far-flung locations - blue-and-white balloons also graced the skies of Liverpool, Leeds, and Staithes in North Yorkshire.
Mark’s daughter Perrie, 22, even managed to take part at the Leeds Festival - despite a health and safety killjoy stopping her from blowing up the helium balloon she had brought.
She improvised by decorating her hands with pictures of balloons in tribute to her dad.
And some of Mark’s closest family members, including Kathie and Cole, 20, were among those who raised £400 by setting off balloons in the garden of their family home in Handsworth.
The event pushes the total money raised for Mark’s fund beyond £20,000, all of which will go to Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield where he was treated.
Kathie said: “Mark would have been really pleased - especially that there were so many Wednesday balloons!
“He was a quiet man and I’m not sure he would have believed how popular he was.
“At his funeral people donated £1,400.
“The vicar said the most he’d ever seen collected before was £800. It was at the chapel on City Road and it was so packed that some people had to stand.
“I’m not sure Mark would have realised just how much people liked him.”