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BALLINGER FRIEND PROJECT BECOMES REALITY 

Two and a half years ago in May of 2011, after jumping off into the unknown with 75 sixth graders, a crazy notion of raising a large amount of money to purchase a ten foot tall new Indian, and the task of finding the perfect artist to bring the statue to life, WE DID IT!! My goal as the teacher was to at least have the 3 components of the project paid for BEFORE the Class of 2015 graduated from Ballinger Junior High. Indian--check, Park--check,check, Artist--check, check, check!! Task Complete!

The major factors that brought about completion in May were the generosity of two contributors. The first contributor is Lynn Gregory of Gregory Custom Homes of Abilene, Texas with a donation of $3,500. Mr. Gregory is the builder that built our home here in Ballinger 6 years ago. Lynn is a very generous person as well as a very skilled contractor. He became a friend of the Carter family through the building of our home and the relationship continued after the last nail was hammered. He has now become a "Friend of a Friend" as well. The second and final factor that came to us literally with hours left in the school year and put us to the finish line was another $3,500 grant from the Dian Graves Owen Foundation also of Abilene. I just happened to be at Fiesta Texas in San Antonio on the Accelerated Reader Points trip with our BJHS students the day before we got out for summer break. I was about to get on a ride when my phone rang and it was from the Owens Foundation with whom I had been talking with for several days. The conversation ended with, "How about we help you close this project out with $3,500"! I couldn't believe it! We had just received the very LAST of the money for the original project with hours to spare!

Being that it was the end of the school year and the sixth graders had become eighth graders and were about to move on to high school, we, the parents, had a celebration pool party for the kids. I had a "going away" package of goodies for the kids and one of the items was an Indian certificate that basically had the words "PAID IN FULL" on it. This was their first time finding out that we had finished a couple of days earlier. Needless to say, I, as well as the kids and parents, shed a few well deserved tears at the park that day! It was AMAZING to see the looks on their faces when they realized that we actually achieved our goal!

We are we now? WE FINALLY HAVE AN INDIAN!! On January 25, Tammi Virden, Hugh Campbell, and myself traveled to Lubbock for our first look at our new bronze Friend to inspect, approve, and choose the final patina color finish. He is BEAUTIFUL! I wished that I could have taken the students with me, but there was just no way to take the number that would have wanted to travel to Lubbock and miss an entire day of school and activities.

This day has been a long time coming! Since May, there have been multiple "snags" at the foundry in Lubbock which is the entity responsible for constructing our new Indian. However, as of February 3, I received that much anticipated email with a picture of the Indian now fully complete and his permanent color. I have included a picture of him in the sand-blasted bronze stage, but for the final look, you will just have to come to Dedication Day to see that! I have begun meeting with the Class of 2015 to prepare for the park renovation and plan our Dedication Day which has been designated for April 29 of the Ethnic Festival. My heart still skips a few beats when I allow myself to think of our dedication day and how incredible it will be to finally see our efforts come to completion and reality! Wow, what a journey!

One last story to leave you with which was another one of those "WOW" moments we have had many times since starting this whole adventure. About two weeks before Thanksgiving, I received an email from a gentleman from Arkansas who wanted to inform me that his wife's cousin who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma had one of the old Indians like we have at Higginbotham's Hardware store in Ballinger. I couldn't believe what I was reading! Another one??? AND...the gentleman said that the man in Tulsa wanted to give his to us to have for our collection. Needless to say I was thrilled at that news! However, fate would have it that he belong to another! A collector of Palacine Indian memorabilia found out about the statue and was able to purchase him before I was able to make contact with the man in Tulsa. But, as much as I would love to have been able to lay claim to TWO old Indians, the "one that got away" is now back home in Ardmore, a block away from the original main gas station where one used to stand and welcome customers. A loss for us, but a gain for that community that is just as thrilled to have their old Friend now back home with them as much as we are thrilled to have our old one welcome you in to Higginbotham's! Perspective??? One found his way home to Ballinger and now there is one back at home in Ardmore and all because a bunch of sixth graders and their teacher decided to shoot for the stars and try to achieve something that, at the time, was seemingly nothing but an impossible dream. In three months, IT BECOMES REALITY!

Cinnamon Carter

For more on Ballinger's Friend see:
http://www.rimrockpress.com/blog/index. ... 902-103925

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