Every year Emily Hinchberger, 11, sends a letter to her father, who died 11 years ago. She ties the letter to a balloon and sends it on its way.
“She loved the idea of being able to communicate with her dad,” her mother, Rebecca Crawford, told KSBW. “I think that was an easy way as a child to understand that it would get to him.”
This year, Emily’s letter found its way from Hollister, California, to a San Ardo vineyard, about 60 miles away, where a man picked it up on his way to work and shared it with Veronica Manzo, of Bakersfield.
“Dear Daddy, I miss you so much,” the letter read. “Guess what, I got all A’s in 6th grade and 1B in P.E. I wish you were here to see how I was doing. I love you, talk to you next year. Love, Emily.”
Manzo was moved by the girl’s letter.
“I have a daughter close to Emily’s age and my daughter is extremely close to her dad,” said Manzo. “My heart just dropped when I read that letter. I just couldn’t imagine my child going through such a loss.”
Manzo posted pictures of balloons and the letter on social media and tried to find the sender. She succeeded.
After getting in contact with Crawford, Manzo offered to pay for private horse riding lessons for Emily.
Emily’s father used to love horse riding.
“He grew up around horses. He’s always ridden horses,” Crawford said. “Emily’s always asked me to get her riding lessons, which isn’t the cheapest thing to do.”
Emily thought it perhaps wasn’t an accident where the balloon landed.
“I was thinking that the wind, maybe he did that or maybe he pushed it in the direction [of Bakersfield.] It’s really cool to know he is up there looking out for me,” she said.
Furthermore, the person who will give Emily her riding lessons is her father’s former girlfriend from high school. Crawford expects it will give Emily a chance to learn more about her father during his teenage years, just as she’s entered that age herself.
Emily has learned something already.
“Even when you lose a loved one, there’s more people around you who care, and they will help you get through it,” she said.