TAYLORVILLE — These file photo from Breeze-Courier archives show the annual kite giveaway and fly-in day tradition started by Larry Snyder who passed away in December. Snyder’s friend and associate Roger Wells hopes to keep the tradition alive in Snyder’s memory.
TAYLORVILLE — Kite enthusiast and longtime Taylorville community leader Larry Snyder passed away in December, but his dream of sharing the joys of kites with children lives on.
Snyder’s friend and fellow kite enthusiast, Roger Wells, who has been involved with the kite giveaway and “Fly-In” program for more than a decade, is hoping to take up the cause in honor of his friend and continue providing high-quality kites for free to local children.
The kite program and spring fly-in were started by Snyder over 20 years ago. He said he started the program as a way to “acquaint himself with kids outside the operating room.” He wanted children to be comfortable if they had to be with him in surgery. “I wanted kids to associate with me outside the hospital environment,” he said. "I hope, if they have to come to the hospital, they recognize me from the kite fly."
His own love of kites and flying spanned many years. He was the co-owner of The Kite Shop in St. Augustine, Florida, and was the champion of the 1991 Eastern Region “Individual Aerial Ballet” and the 1993 Maui Invitational “Individual Aerial Ballet”. He was a retired Major in the United States Air Force and was a veteran of the Vietnam War and served in Desert Storm.
Snyder packed a lifetime of giving and community service into his 67 years, serving as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Taylorville Memorial Hospital for 20 years, spearheading a drive for a new helipad at the hospital (which is now dedicated to him), taking countless children up for their first airplane ride through the Young Eagle program, and giving away thousands of kites among other things. Flying the kites, he said, “gets the kids outside, away from the TV and video games. It’s just your kite, you, and the wind - a sure stress reliever. A positive thing for the community.”
Over 200 kites were given away for the 20-plus years Snyder ran the program and Wells said parents who received kites as children now bring their own children for the same experience. “I promised Sally [Snyder’s widow] that I would do my best to keep the giveaway going but I can’t do it myself” he said.
So Wells is looking for help from the community to keep the kites flying. He has a deal worked out with the kite supplier, Premier Kites, and hopes to raise $3000 - enough to give away between two and three hundred kites. Premier Kites, a specialty kite company based in Maryland and Ohio, has agreed to continue to provide kites at a discount along with free shipping.
Wells said he has been approached by several people wanting to donate kites but the policy has always been to buy quality kites at wholesale to give away. “We give away quality kites. The kites we give to kids will last for years,” he said. “They’re not cheap, fly-once-and-throw-away kites. And we can buy at wholesale for about what you can get at retail anyway and get a lot better kite.”
Wells said he would like to hold the kite giveaway and fly-in in early May. Anyone interested in donating or helping in any way can call Roger Wells at (217) 827-0244.