Balloons have taken on a whole new meaning for Don Seifers, Carmen Rodriguez and their two children Trinity, 11, and Brenden, 12.
What were once a symbol of celebration is now used as a coping mechanism after the Illinois family lost their son, Blake, in a bicycle accident.
The 7-year-old was hit by a car near their home in Rowe, near Peoria, on July 19, 2014, and died two days later.
At the funeral, Rodriguez's best friend, Sarah Bonnie, suggested everyone write a message to Blake on a balloon and send it up to him in heaven.
It has since become a tradition, with extended family members gathering every so often to launch balloons in the air.
"We send him a balloon on hard days when we really miss him," Rodriguez told TODAY.com, adding that the family sent up extra balloons after Trinity’s 11th birthday party on Sunday.
"It's almost a way of sending our feelings up to him and letting him know what's going on."
On Oct. 14, Seifers let go of a balloon with a special message for his son.
"Daddy misses you so much," Seifers wrote on the balloon. "I am having a really hard time. It's hard to keep going without you here.
“I miss the time we had together, hearing your voice is what I miss the most. I'm asking you to give me strength to keep going. Daddy misses you so much. I hope to see you again one day. Love, Daddy"
He didn't think he'd ever see it again.
That is, until he got a Facebook message a week later from a woman named Karina Sorensen, who found the balloon in the front yard of her home — in Denmark, 4,200 miles away.
"Karina told us that when she found it, she felt as though she knew us, just from reading the message on the balloon," Rodriguez said.
"Being a parent herself, she said she immediately cried and had a feeling that she needed to find us."
Sorensen's two daughter, Signe, 7, and Sophie, 10, were so excited to find a balloon from America, Signe's teacher used it to get her students to email with the family in an effort to improve their English.
"To us, it was the ultimate show of respect to get in touch with after finding the balloon. That was above and beyond what we ever expected anyone to do," Rodriguez said.
"Karina promises to save that balloon until we can one day meet and bring it full circle."