The pandemic made 2020 a year like no other, and we all found different ways of coping. For some of us, it meant binge-watching everything on Netflix. For others, it meant quarantine baking. For yet others, it was finally time to declutter the closet.

We can definitely relate to all of these ways of coping with 2020. Besides Netflix and baking, we did a deep dive on the closets and the garage; however, with many donation locations closed during the pandemic, the question became what to do with all of the items we had to give away.

Have you heard of the Buy Nothing Project? It’s a movement started in Washington, but now there are Facebook groups all over the country. Each group is hyper-local so that members can give and receive items without traveling very far and with the added benefit of getting to know their neighbors.

One Buy Nothing group in the San Fernando Valley grew tremendously since the beginning of COVID-19. Membership more than doubled. Some members were grateful to be able to have a place to give away items. Other members were grateful for free food, clothing and furniture that would’ve been hard to afford. There was one member that went truly above and beyond.

In a Facebook post, Heidi Kushnatsian Wienckowski explained the magic that happened when a “Balloon Fairy” showed up in her Buy Nothing group. 

He or she would leave intricate balloon bouquets at homes all around Northridge, conveniently timed during special occasions, left on doorsteps with the stealth of a ninja. Since last October, her notoriety spread throughout the neighborhood, and our group of 1000 BN community members would joyfully follow her journey and delight in the sheer happiness she would provide its recipients, a bit of magic sprinkled in our pandemic year to lighten our burdens. When an unsuspecting ‘victim’ would find themselves balloon bombed, they’d share their reactions or the photos of their children hugging the bouquet and ALL of us would delight in that moment, almost as much as if we received the surprise ourselves.”


These balloon bouquets were bigger than the children who received them, but even bigger than the balloons was the joy spread amongst the Buy Nothing group members. Part of the magic was that nobody knew who the Balloon Fairy was, but that was about to change.

In January 2021, the Balloon Fairy decided to make her identity known via  Zoom, and she did it with the pop of a balloon. Her name was written on a piece of paper inside, and over 100 neighbors joined the meeting to find out who was responsible for the elaborate balloon bouquets.

It turned out that the balloon fairy is Jacqui Phung, a mom with two young children, one of which is only a baby. How she managed to find the time to create these beautiful works of art is just as amazing as the balloons themselves.

“This young, talented mom of an infant and toddler managed to find time out of her hectic life to painstakingly create these temporary works of art, for the simple joy of giving, spreading happiness anonymously wherever she went.”

During the Zoom meeting, Phung shared that her husband helped her deliver the bouquets, and they had to go out of their way to defy video doorbells in order to keep their identities a secret. It wasn’t easy, but it was magical. She even gave herself a bouquet and posted about it in the Buy Nothing group to throw off anyone who might have suspected that she was the balloon fairy.

Phung only learned to create balloon bouquets a few months ago. She watched several YouTube videos, bought some balloons, and found that her new hobby was time-consuming but not that hard to learn.

While many of us probably don’t have the time or patience to create an elaborate balloon bouquet, we can all find small ways to bring joy to loved ones and even strangers. The magic of the balloon fairy can be felt in any secret or unexpected gift, whether it’s a kind note, sharing quarantine baking or anything else that is given from the heart.

How would you react if you found a surprise balloon bouquet outside your front door? Have you ever surprised someone with something and kept your identity a secret?