Balloon Festival

Hot air balloons will light up the sky over the Harford County Equestrian Center during the Rising Above It gala to raise money for SARC. (AEGIS FILE PHOTO / August 28, 2011)

Thirty-five years ago, a handful of community agencies came together to make a modest effort at helping victims of sexual violence.

The first SARC helpline was run out of someone's kitchen, in 1978.

Now the organization, whose name means "Safety, Awareness, Resources, Change," has 30 employees and is bigger than ever, community relations coordinator Kelsey Luchey said recently.

On the eve of its 35th anniversary, which kicked off in July, SARC is gearing up for its fourth annual Family Fun Day on Saturday.

The event-filled day on the grounds of the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air is the main fundraiser for the organization, and is preceded by the "Rising Above It" hot air balloon gala the night before.

SARC will feature a 35th anniversary tent during Family Fun Day, to be filled with a history of the organization, articles from The Aegis, a display of an anniversary book and, Luchey hopes, reunions for former SARC employees and participants.

She said the group has grown to have a wide array of resources for anyone dealing with domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking.

"We have it all. We are able to help anyone with any services they need," she said. "It's been a huge growth and the huge impact has been from the community. We wouldn't be where we are without the community's support."

The main goal of Family Fun Day is to promote awareness about SARC, which Luchey said she believes the event has certainly done.

"It's given a lot of community awareness. Family Fun Day is a really positive way to get our name out there," Luchey said.

"Last year, over 3,700 people attended. This year we have gotten more press for it, so we expect it to be even bigger," she said.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and feature crafts, games, food, horse rides, goats, a "Mommy Market," a scavenger hunt and moon bounces.

There will be 35 to 40 vendors, which is more than last year, Luchey said, and performances by Stone House Jam Academy, a Bel Air music school, as well as entertainer Uncle Pete and performers Skullduggery Pirates.

One new feature will be an appearance by the Orioles bird, which will fly in from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We are expecting a larger crowd this year," she said.

The balloon glow event will run from 7 to 11 p.m. at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace and features a cocktail hour with the inflated balloons, a formal dinner and silent auction.

It will also feature a photo booth this year and a performance by The Classics.

The entire event typically raises $80,000 for SARC, Luchey said.

Tickets cost $135 for the balloon gala and $5 for Family Fun Day. Tickets for the gala must be bought at http://www.sarc-maryland.org/events.html while Fun Day tickets can be bought online or at the door.