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Crystal Lake business organizes balloon rides for charities

Published: Sunday, July 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, July 7, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT
(Sarah Nadar -
Bennett Schwontkowski, founder and president of Corporate Balloons & Promotions, prepares the Mortgage Capital Group's Uplift Foundation hot-air balloon in Crystal Lake.
(Sarah Nadar -
Jill Struck of Crystal Lake and her children, Ethan Struck, 6, and Sydney Struck, 8, walk inside the Mortgage Capital Group's Uplift Foundation hot-air balloon in Crystal Lake before taking off.
(Sarah Nadar –
The Mortgage Capital Group's Uplift Foundation hot-air balloon soars above McHenry County.

CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake business owner has come up with a high-flying way to give back to the community.

Mortgage Capital Group Inc. is using a hot-air balloon to help charity organizations raise money.

Owner Eric Schroeder, 34, started the MCG Uplift Foundation two months ago as a vehicle for the residential real estate brokerage and its employees to support local nonprofits. A portion of each mortgage deal the company makes will go to the foundation, which will distribute the money quarterly to local charities selected by employees.

“For a business to actually be successful and complete the circle, it has to be able to give back to the community that supports it,” Schroeder said. “A community should be a better place because of its businesses.”

This summer, Schroeder rented a hot-air balloon to draw attention to the foundation. He also lets nonprofit groups auction off balloon rides to raise money. The minimum bid is $1,100, but the foundation will donate money to the organization even if the reserve isn’t met. The foundation covers the cost of the balloon flights. The balloon also serves as a marketing tool for Mortgage Capital Group, which Schroeder started in December 2007.

Corporate Balloons & Promotions operates the balloon rides.

“I grew up in Crystal Lake watching hot-air balloons fly over all the time,” said Schroeder, a Crystal Lake South High School graduate. “I’ve always been fascinated by them and that emotion they create.”

The balloon could be a common site over Crystal Lake and southern McHenry County this summer as the foundation raises money for charity groups.

Money raised through the foundation goes to groups such as Algonquin Red Dress Run, Animal House Shelter in Huntley, Crystal Lake South Gators Baseball, It’s All About Kids, Home of the Sparrow, A Friend in Deed, Z’s Team Pena Wrestling Club, Girls on the Run, the Northern Illinois Food Bank and others. 

The foundation takes the place of Christmas bonuses for the firm’s 11 employees.

“They enjoy it,” Schroeder said. “It makes them feel great.”

Mortgage Capital Group started just before the housing crash, but has managed to grow despite the difficult market. Schroeder said the company had $1.4 million in revenue last year.

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