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Balloon Festival & Pnc Bank Help Local Children Grow Up Great

May 24, 2007

       ENGLEWOOD, NJ — The Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning and PNC Bank brought a giant, 75-foot-tall hot air balloon to Mackay Park in Englewood to promote PNC’s “Grow Up Great” school readiness program.
       The program is the most comprehensive corporate-based school readiness program in the country, a 10-year, $100 million investment dedicated to help produce stronger, smarter, and healthier children, families and communities, preparing young children for school and life.
       150 pre-school children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old from the Bergen Family Center had the unique opportunity to step inside a giant hot air balloon and experience the thrills and visual attractions this event offers as they went outdoors to study the world around them. Bergen Family Center is Bergen County’s oldest continuously operating family service agency; this is the 2nd consecutive year that the Bergen Family Center has been honored.
      This walk-through event took place in Mackay Park, opposite the Bergen Family Center in Englewood, NJ and featured a giant hot air balloon which was inflated on its side and securely staked to the ground allowing Bergen Family Center children to play inside. Festival producer Howard Freeman provided an age-appropriate lesson on the science of hot-air ballooning — giving kids a chance to “Grow Up Great!” — with Festival Director and pilot Sally Mazzocchi providing the balloon.
      “We are extremely grateful to PNC and the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning for providing this fantastic experience that our children will remember for a lifetime,” said Mitch Schonfeld, President and CEO of Bergen Family Center. “PNC’s Grow Up Great Foundation has supported Bergen Family Center for three years with most generous grants to our unique HIPPY (Home Instructions for Parents of Pre-School Youngsters) program for children ages 3-5 and our other early childhood education programs.”       
       “PNC Grow Up Great is an unprecedented 10-year, $100 million investment, helping prepare young children, from birth to age five, for school and life,” said Joseph Whall, Director of Client & Community Relations, Office of the Regional President, PNC Bank, whose Grow Up Great program has awarded several million dollars to Head Start centers, non-profit early childhood organizations, and institutions of higher learning to enhance the quality of early care and education for disadvantaged children.
      Whall added, “PNC is particularly pleased to provide our financial support to the innovative pre-school programs of the Bergen Family Center. The center regularly provides hands-on learning experiences to their youngest children. And with the help of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in association with PNC Bank, those children begin to see the wonders of the world through the lens of science.”
      “It’s all about the children, to see the joy in their faces when they get to play in the balloon,” said Freeman, who provided the balloon, one of the 125 hot air balloons scheduled to be at the Festival, and the lesson for the children as part of the Festival’s community outreach program. “We believe in doing well by doing good. We are thrilled to provide these great kids with a fun and exciting learning experience that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
      The Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in association with PNC Bank is the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America and is the premier family entertainment event in the Northeast. Upwards of 175,000 people are expected to attend the Festival’s 25th Silver Anniversary, July 27-28-29, 2007 at Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ.
      Founded in 1898, Bergen Family Center supports, strengthens and enriches family life through innovative programs and quality services. Bergen Family Center offers multiple educational and recreational programs for children 10 months to 11 years old, including day-care, pre-school and after-school programming. The center provides a great start for children in the public schools of their home towns.
      This is the first of two PNC Grow Up Great events to be conducted in New Jersey. The Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning and PNC will hold a similar walk-through balloon event at the Princeton Nursery School in late June.