Longview Business Offers Disabled Employment

The Great Texas Balloon Race kicks off Friday in Longview with dozens of hot-air balloons filling the East Texas skies, and one of those balloons, called Fly The Rainbow, is designed for disabled riders. For 24-year-old Jesse Labay, the coming of the Great Texas Balloon Race is something of a personal victory. He was instrumental in bringing the specially designed balloon to Longview for the physically disabled.

"This balloon is to show that people in wheelchair can do anything anybody else can," says Labay. Stricken with muscular dystrophy, Labay works for a non-profit organization called Knock-Knock Industries, a business that recycles ink-jet cartridges, and more importantly, employs those with disabilities.

"I love just getting out and having the independence to do what I want and go as I please," Labay says. His tenaciousness is appreciated by his fellow employees.

"For Jesse, it just became a mission to bring that balloon here, he just thinks this is the statement our community needs to hear," says co-worker Sally Austin. A graduate of U.T. Arlington with a degree in journalism, Labay wants to relay a positive message to those, like him, who've struggled to try and make it into the workforce.

"Sometimes I got an interview and sometimes I didn't.  Everybody gets shot down at one time or another, you've just got to pick yourself up and try again," Labay says. He hopes that a simple recycling business will turn into freedom for others like him.

Bob Hallmark, reporting.