Balloon Animals

Being the new guy on the volunteer staff at CWD’s Family Support Weekend, I made a point to introduce myself to as many of the other staff as I could.

The night before the opening session, I crossed paths with Neil Benchell, who helps keep the tween’s entertained. I’d met his wife, Jill, earlier in the week (Kerri & I were doing a session with her on Friday). I can’t remember where I heard (or read) that Neil does magic tricks for the kids, but when I introduced myself I said that I was going to learn how to pull a quarter out of his ear or something the next time I saw him.

Fast forward to the next morning at the breakfast. He walks up to me, hands me a balloon, tells me to blow it up, then walks away. As he’s leaving, he says “let me know once you get that blown up”. I figured that he had to be up to some sort of mischief…

I gave the balloon a quick once over, just to make sure it wasn’t coated in jalapeño pepper or something like that, then tried to blow it up. I could not do it. I blew with all I had, but that damn balloon wouldn’t budge. I sat down at my table and figured there must be some trick or technique to it. So I googled it.


The top two google results were 1) use a pump, or 2) do six weeks of lung strengthening exercises. Right then, Neil sits down next to me, pulls another balloon out of his pocket, blows it up and transforms it into a parrot.

I asked him for another, different, balloon, and went at it again. Nothing. I was eventually able to blow up a couple of balloons, but I had to watch Neal do it a couple more times. He had some subtle technique involving stretching the balloon, releasing it, and blowing at a very specific time during the stretch and release.


It took me about two hours to create those masterpieces in the picture, with 95% of that time spent blowing at (not blowing UP) the balloons. I’ve never felt so incapable before in my life. Well, wait…I did feel pretty incapable of hitting a whiffle ball

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Scott K. Johnson

Patient voice, speaker, writer, advocate. Living life with diabetes and telling my story. Patient Success Manager, USA for mySugr (All opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent the position of my employer).

Diagnosed in April of 1980, I recognize the incredible mental struggle of living with diabetes. Read more…