With 150-Foot Kites, Texas Man Raises Big Bucks for Charity

With 150-Foot Kites, Texas Man Raises Big Bucks for Charity

Want to do something to help people? Go fly a kite.

That's the advice of Texas retiree Barry Ogletree, who has been raising money for charity by raising massive kites in the air.

With the help of his wife and sometimes his sons, Ogletree travels the country, covering his own expenses to fly gigantic kites at charity events, allowing do-gooders to raise cash through food and kite sales.

"Years ago, we decided that when we retired we wanted to do something that was fun," Ogletree told AOL News. "Some people hunt, some people fish, some people do motorcycles -- we just decided we wanted to do kites."

So once or twice a month, the Lufkin native packs up a trailer loaded with more than a dozen huge kites from his collection of more than 60 and hits the road.

By flying gigantic kites shaped like octopuses, scuba divers and great white sharks, Ogletree helps charities' bank accounts soar (he recently raised $58,000 for Habitat for Humanity during a kite festival in Oklahoma, according to KTRE.com).

It's not just the fundraising that's big. His kites -- some of which are held together by as many as a million stitches and measure up to 150 feet long -- are so big they can't be controlled by hand, and instead are secured to the ground with heavy-duty lines.

"With the big display kites, it's like the Macy's Day Parade," said Ogletree, owner of WhataKite. "The big ones show up for miles -- it's not unusual to be on the beach and have people say they saw them from six or seven miles away."

Unsurprisingly, Ogletree finds that when it comes to flight, bigger is better.

"I was in super-heavy construction my whole life. I'm used to really big stuff, like large construction equipment," he explained. "I'm just more conformable with the big kites, and I understand them a lot better than very small kites -- it just fits my life better."

Ogletree designs some of his own kites himself and purchases others from skilled kite-makers -- mainly kites that have aquatic themes.

"The fish are colorful, you can put them in schools and make a good show with sharks and whales," he said.

Anyone who has tried to fly a kite knows it can be difficult, depending on the wind. Things only get harder -- and more dangerous -- as the kites get bigger.

"You can really get yourself hurt really bad with one of those," he said. "They are not for beginners. It takes years to acquire the skills required to fly these things."

Ogletree himself has been learning for more than three decades.

His love for kites started during a family beach vacation in Florida more than 30 years ago when his kids saw another family flying kites and asked for some of their own. Ogletree initially said no, fearing they'd poke their eyes out.

But he changed his mind when one of his sons found a stickless kite for sale. From there, the interest just took off.

"The family story is that all of the kids grew up and I didn't."

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