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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A helium balloon launched from the parking lot of the Bardstown Police Department on Christmas night has prompted an unexpected response -- from Allentown, Pa.
The balloon was released on Christmas Day by Officer John Snellen, with Bardstown Police. He and his family released it to honor the fallen officer who was shot and killed on the way home from work in late May.
"And it said 'Merry Christmas Jason in Heaven. It had #139 on it and said never forget", says Officer John Snellen.
On Thursday, he received news that someone found the balloon in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
That's 678 miles away.
"I think an elderly man in the story said it was in a snow storm and something blew in the tree and he went out and got it and wrote a letter," says Officer Snellen.
The 80-year-old man who found the balloon sent a letter to Bardstown Police, saying "I googled the name Jason Ellis, and read the story of Jason's untimely death".
He went on to say, "The news about that event didn't make it to Eastern Pennsylvania, however the balloon did".
"When Chief McCubbin read the letter and gave it to me, he was noticeably moved. It choked me up," says Captain Tom Roby.
The letter has been all the talk at the police department. It's an amazing story, that is still bittersweet.
"I told him he brought a smile to a heavy heart today and I've been smiling ever since I read this letter," says Capt. Roby.
The 80-year-old man says he is living comfortably in a retirement home, and saw online that Officer Ellis left behind a wife and children.
He's now hoping to make a contribution to the Ellis family, who he writes "had to go through this Christmas without their husband/father".
The text of the man's letter is below:
Dear brothers in blue:
Yesterday (Thursday, Dec. 26), I was looking out of our third floor apartment building, watching the end of a beautiful snow squall that moved through the area. Nature, in a relatively short period of time outlined the tree branches in white - a breathtaking sight - when out of nowhere, I noticed a blue balloon lazily settling onto the lawn outside.
[He went on to describe the contents of a note in the balloon before returning to his narrative.]
I Googled the name 'Jason Ellis' and read the sad story about Jason's untimely death. The news about that event didn't make it to Eastern Pennsylvania, however the balloon did.
God has been good to me. I am 80 years old, living comfortably in a retirement home with my wife. I also understand that Jason left behind a wife and children.
How can I make a contribution directly to this family, who had to go through this Christmas without their husband / father?
Also, who are the ones who released the balloon? One balloon or many?
If convenient, you can reach me at: [e-mail redacted].
What started with just a balloon release is now touching people hundreds of miles away.
It doesn't go unnoticed with these officer.
"A lot of people would have picked it up and throw it away, but you didn't," says Officer Snellen.
The letter prompted an outpouring of emotion from people when it was posted on the Bardstown Police Dept. Facebook page.
"This gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes..." posted Beth Downs, a fan of the page.
"How cool of the guy to take the time to write a lovely note," wrote Susan Bradshaw Cavins, another fan.
"How awesome," added Phyllis Ballard. "Sure wish the killer could be found."
Captain Roby says, as of right now, the donations continue to come in and the reward is up to $250,000 to find Officer Ellis' killer.
Anyone with information should call Kentucky State Police.