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New Windsor teen battling cancer soars on blimp ride over Westminster

Lauren Logue, 13, of New Windsor was one of 10  children suffering with a critical illness who rode in the DirecTV blimp Saturday. Logue soared above Westminster with her grandmother Shirley Logue, 77, of Mount Airy.  (Lauren Loricchio/Carroll County Times)

Lauren Logue, a 13-year-old who was diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago, peered out the window with calm fascination, watching as the blimp she was seated in began to lift from the ground.

As the helium-filled airship drifted further from the ground, she gazed out upon greater Westminster, taking in the aerial view of Carroll County Regional Airport, cars, roads, trees and bridges that became tiny toy-like shapes in the distance.

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Lauren, of New Windsor, was one of 10 pediatric oncology patients invited for a ride aboard the DirecTV blimp, operated by chief pilot Jeff Capek. Thirty-minute rides were given in the airship filled with 170,000 cubic feet of helium from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Blimp rides were offered to Lauren and other children through DirecTV and the nonprofit Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation, which provides hospital housing, respite housing and hands-on adventures to critically ill children and their families.

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"We are just trying to give these children and their families a break from the hospital, doctors visits, treatments and everything like that — just giving them something to look forward to and a reason to look forward to the future," said Matthew Fox, a spokesman for the foundation.

Lauren was joined by her grandmother, Shirley Logue, 77, of Mount Airy, who sat behind her during the ride, as the blimp cruised through the air, propelled by two engines, at about 35 miles per hour.

Shirley said her granddaughter had been unable to get out of the house and do something fun since she was diagnosed June 10 of last year because of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and other ailments. Lauren was diagnosed with leukemia, when she was taken to a local hospital soon before New Windsor Middle School's annual Play Day, which she had been looking forward to.

"I've been through a lot and I want to have fun," Lauren said while approaching the aircraft with her grandmother.

Lauren underwent a bone marrow transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she was hospitalized for 42 days.

During that time, Lauren was able to stay in the Believe in Tomorrow Children's House at Hopkins, which is located across the street from the hospital in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore.

"We were so lucky to be able to take advantage of that," said her mother, Beth Logue.

Lauren had chemotherapy treatments for three months and total-body radiation treatments but is recovering, Beth said.

"She's doing awesome — there is no trace of leukemia and her hair is growing back," Beth said. "For any kid who knows what is going on, it's important that they keep a good spirit."

Beth said her daughter has been able to keep a positive outlook, despite her diagnosis.

"It's a treat to get out in the fresh air and go do something," said Shirley, who enjoyed the opportunity to share the experience with her granddaughter.

As Lauren and her grandmother floated about 800 feet above, her mother and grandparents Al and Holly Perna, of West Virginia, watched from a grassy field at Carroll County Regional Airport.

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"It's a beautiful thing with everything that she has gone through to have an extra special experience like this that makes it a little bit better," Beth said. "It's really special for someone to do something like this for children."

Lauren said the blimp ride gave her bragging rights, not only with other kids at school, but also with her younger brother Collin, 11.

"It was really fun," Lauren said. "The cars looked like ants."

Her grandmother agreed. "It was wonderful; he was a good driver," Shirley said.

lauren.loricchio@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7862

twitter.com/LaurenLoricchio

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