Building balloons raises funds for Centraide; a children’s book features a dog

It’s a ball and pineapple day for readers.

Sounds like a lot of hot air, but it was fun. Jennifer Nyikos is a builder. Not concrete or steel. She works in balloons.

She owns Fun by the yard, a South Bend balloon and sign company. She is a professional ball player. She is so professional that she was recently asked to participate in a Construction of large balloons in Vincennes, Ind.

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She and 65 other ball pros worked for days to build a Candy Land– themed wonderland with big ice cream cones, candy clouds and sweetness all over an area the size of two gymnasiums. Over 125,000 balloons were used. The ultimate winner in all of this was the United Way of Knox County. The charity has raised over $130,000 through tours, events and sponsorships.

There was also a collection of canned goods for food banks in the region. Over 14,000 pounds of food have been donated to nine banks.

Fresh from Vincennes, Jenn was resting in South Bend after the big event. She said the balloon people worked for three days for about 10 hours a day to do the construction. “It was exhausting but great memories.”

Big Balloon Builds are used by charities to promote and raise funds.

Jenn said this was the second time she’s been involved. The first time was two years ago in Wales. “This was the first time a build had come to the United States. There are more planned in the United States,” Jenn said.

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Hasbro, the company that owns the rights to Candy Land, has licensed the use of the name and characters for the event. Jenn said a walk in the balloons was like being part of the game.

“It was a very uplifting event.” (A balloon pun). “It was wonderful to see the long queue to enter the event when we were done. I didn’t get a penny out of it, but I felt like we were helping others. If you give a kid a ball, that’s all I need,” she said.


Warsaw resident Kathryn Zolman holds her first book,

Catherine Zolman has always been a dog lover. She likes dobermann. She now puts her love of dogs into words. His first book is “Are you a pineapple?” It will be released on May 3 by Books on mascots.

Warsaw resident Kathy said the book encourages children to be grateful for the animals in their lives. The book is aimed at children from 3 to 8 years old.

Kevin is the main character (human) and he has a new puppy. Kevin wants a unique name to reflect the sweetness of the dog. The puppy helps Kevin choose the new name, which is Pineapple. Just like the fruit it represents, the Pineapple can stand upright and is very soft inside.

Kathy said Kevin (the real life friend) had this lovely story about the name of a Bullmastiff-Chow-Shepherd mix. “I loved the story. It was the funniest thing the pup chose the name. I thought about it for a while and decided to write it down.

by Kathryn Zolman

She developed, worked and rewrote during the pandemic. Kathy searched and found Mascot Books. The editor liked the idea and provided ideas for illustrations. “It’s wonderful to see it come to life with illustrations. I said to the artist (Walter Policeli) my ideas.” And it was off to the races.

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Kathy always insists on being an author. “It’s out of my comfort zone” to talk about writing. “Never considered this. I had a number of book ideas in mind, but it never happened. I communicate better in writing, but it’s out of the ordinary. It all came together because that the story was so good.The process is overwhelming and thrilling.

There were no clues available about the history of the dog’s name. But the book will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Mascot if you want the full story.

Kathy said Pineapple continues to be a sweet and wonderful dog.

There could be a “Pineapple 2” on the horizon. Kathy was asked to continue writing about the adorable dog. Kevin (the owner) sees a series of books, she says.

You can reach Kathy at