Bourne-based property developer Larkfleet Homes ( is sponsoring a virtual balloon race to support people affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid on the brain).

The race, organised by Peterborough-based charity Shine (, offers people the chance to watch and track their balloon as it races to the (virtual) finish line.

Shine has been running fund-raising balloon races for about 40 years but moved them into the online world in 2009 because of concern about the environmental impact of balloons littering the countryside. People can buy a ‘virtual balloon’ which can then be decorated, tracked and even have its journey influenced on social media!

The Shine computer takes account of real-world weather conditions and factors such as the amount of gas in each balloon as it continuously calculates the position of each race entrant following the online ‘launch’. The winning balloon is the one that travels furthest on the virtual map.

Larkfleet Homes and sister company Allison Homes are sponsoring Shine’s Benny Bear New Year Balloon Race. Benny Bear is the Shine ‘mascot’, a character who has hydrocephalus and works with children to raise awareness of the condition and its impact.

Asif Shaheed of Shine said: “The sponsorship from Larkfleet provides essential funding which allows Shine’s team to contact companies and individuals across the country and encourage them to buy a balloon in the race. We have sold more than £70,000 worth of balloons already – and the race does not actually start until 3 January when we will ‘launch’ the balloons from Larkfleet’s headquarters in Bourne.”

If you would like to buy a balloon in the race you can do so at

Helen Jones, director of marketing at Larkfleet, said: “We are delighted to sponsor The Benny Bear New Year Race as part of our programme of support for local communities and charities.

“Shine is an amazing charity and the balloon race is a fun way to raise money for a serious and worthwhile cause.”