Linda Nolen Learning Center has balloon parade

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

By BARTON PERKINS | Staff Writer

PELHAM – As a homage to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the students of the Linda Nolen Learning Center paraded around the school and through the halls at the second-ever Balloons Over LNLC parade on Thursday, Nov. 16.

“Just seeing the excitement from the children, the joy on their faces and the excitement that the teachers and faculty and staff had, we just all had a blast,” LNLC’s Librarian Meredith Hornsby said.

The Linda Nolen Learning Center is a specialized learning center in Shelby County Schools that serves students with special needs by individualizing programs to prepare these students mentally, physically, socially and emotionally for independence. 

“The kind of kids that go here are typically students who have multiple disabilities. Some are medically fragile and can’t be served in their home school.” LNLC’s assistant principal Molly Parks said. “But we also have students who have emotional disabilities. And they need a smaller environment to thrive and be independent.”

The parade was inspired by “Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade,” which documents the origin story of the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

“We read the book, and we talked about how the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade got started, how the balloons became a part of it, things like that,” Hornsby said. “And then we decided we were going to do our own parade because most of our students will never have the opportunity to participate in a city parade or something larger. So we wanted to give them that experience.”

Students had the chance to decorate their own balloons and parade through the hallways of LNLC, and several teachers even chose to accompany them. Along with the school’s students and teachers, members of the Oak Mountain High School’s Dance Line came to serve as an homage to the Radio City Rockettes. Several golden retriever puppies training to be facility dogs at Rover Chase also attended.

We had Leslie Claybrook, the general manager of the Birmingham Squadron, come and she was our grand marshal,” Hornsby said. “She (Claybrook) passed out a bunch of swag to all of our students and faculty.”

While this was LNLC’s second year putting on the event, it was Hornsby’s first year organizing it, and by all accounts, it was a wonderful experience for the students.

“It’s a very special school,” Hornsby said. “It’s the happiest place I’ve ever worked. We work hard every day to make each day awesome. We have fun every day, no matter what we wind up doing.”