Within days of the publication of "The Moon Balloon®" book in 1996, a tragedy occurred in the small town of Dunblane, Scotland, where sixteen kindergarten children and their teacher were shot and killed. The ACCH sent 725 books overseas to help as a resource in coping with the unthinkable crime. “The Moon Balloon®” provided social workers with a safe vehicle to facilitate discussion about the massacre, and it was an unthreatening way to help handle the community's grief. While officials felt they didn’t want people from America telling them how to handle their grief, they were open to having an artist visit, with intentions of helping them all to heal. Joan Drescher traveled to Scotland and met with social workers who were better able to understand how to use the book with children and families after speaking with Joan in person.
Fifteen years later, in 2011, "The Moon Balloon®" is still treasured and used in Dunblane to assist in healing conversations with children and families. This year, the Moon Balloon Project donated an additional 25 books to Dunblane.
Since Dunblane, "The Moon Balloon®" has been used to help children in crisis, through hospitals, hospices, schools, and social service agencies. The book has traveled internationally, bringing its healing message to communities throughout the world.
Thanks to the wonderful friendship of Dr. Tina Annoni, In Italy, the Moon Balloon® traveled with me to the Gaslini Hospital for children in Genoa, Italy. I have offered numerous workshops and presentations with the support of A.M.R.I. (Associazione per le Malattie Reumatiche Infantili). The Moon Balloon® is featured on the hospital website. The artwork from the patients using the Moon Balloon® was displayed in the Genoa Public Library, honoring the children who created it. Gaslini Hospital has invited Joan Drescher back every year, for the past six years. (view photos from Italy)
Recently, Dr. Judy Rolllins traveled to Japan to introduce the Moon Balloon® book to hospital administrators who are interested in translating it into their language. This country has a high suicide rate among young children, because of bullying and shame, and because children there are not encouraged to express their feelings. However, feedback has indicated that the balloons offer children an acceptable opportunity to communicate through the use of drawing.
“The Moon Balloon® has become, for families in the Philippines, their silent Buddy who laughed, cried, feared and smiled with them. It was a channel for their secret fears and anxieties, released and understood just as they have wanted it. It was a good listener for their sorrows, no matter how often they want to talk about it, it does not get tired of their repeated litany. The Moon balloon assumes the role of a friend, a parent, a spouse, a sibling…whoever they want to speak with, and it was always there for them.
At the end of the Moon Balloon® Workshop, everyone walked away with a light heart. They have found a companion whom they can always go back to when the need arises. The situation of having a special needs child will not change, but these families have learned to transform themselves in some ways whether they can feel better about themselves. Challenged but not pitiful, fearful but not hopeless.”