Birthday balloons ‘released to heaven’

by Jim Boyle, Editor

When news of Daisy Jo Holland’s disappearance broke, Sabrina Gutierrez sensed she needed to do something for that little girl and her family.  The Elk River community had rescued her son’s 5th birthday party after fire decimated wrapped birthday presents and their home in the Lion’s Park Apartment fire in 2008, and now it was her turn.

Several hundred people of all ages and walks of life turned out for a balloon release on Daisy Jo Holland’s second birthday, one day after her body had been discovered in the Elk River River after going missing on the Friday before Memorial Day.

Several hundred people of all ages and walks of life turned out for a balloon release on Daisy Jo Holland’s second birthday, one day after her body had been discovered in the Elk River River after going missing on the Friday before Memorial Day.

“The Elk River community gave my son a birthday party I have to compete with every year to this day,” Gutierrez said, noting her son still has the newspaper clipping of the event as a reminder. “One year I brought 27 kids to a movie and that still didn’t compare.” The year of the apartment fire, his presents were replaced by an anonymous person. Dairy Queen provided a cake. The community also came forward with everything from the shoes off their feet (literally) to furnishings for an entire apartment within a week.  “It turned out to be a very positive thing for him,” she said.

Daisy Jo would never get a party for her 2nd birthday. She would have turned 2 on Memorial  Day.

Gutierrez said she was the 192nd person to like the Facebook page named for the family of Daisy Jo Holland. That was started anonymously by two people. The number of friends topped 8,000 and is still climbing.

“This could have happened to anyone of my friends or me,” Gutierrez said. “That little girl has changed a lot of lives without even knowing it.”

The Elk River woman’s initial ideas had to be morphed on Sunday when Daisy Jo’s body was found. She was in the car with her son Kristoffer Gutierrez, now nearly 10 and nearing another birthday in the fall, when she heard a radio report of the discovery. She knew she should do something for her birthday — on her birthday.  Kristoffer suggested “releasing balloons to heaven.”

She started contacting businesses about donations, and she found Party City in Elk River was willing to donate two balloons per person. She also sought permissiom from the Holland family for a balloon release on Daisy Jo’s birthday. They OK’d it.

It was planned for 4 p.m. on May  27 (Daisy’s birthday) along the shores at Lake Orono Park. Several hundred people of all ages and walks of life turned out for the release. Before the final countdown, those within earshot sang “Happy Birthday” to Dasiy Jo. And then they released the balloons with all sorts of messages inscribed on them.

“It made me want to cry,” Gutierrez said of the release. “It was nice to see such a community outpouring. It was very sad, but it was happy, too.”

Keith Holland, a grandfather of Daisy Jo’s, said he loves Sabrina Gutierrez, even though she is a complete stranger.

“It’s like a real life pay it forward,” he said of the release and guest book signing. “Daisy Jo has touched so many people who have been praying for her or hurting for her.  We hope there’s some healing going on.”

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