like what you do. And if your practice ceases to be
fun, either you need to change the way you do it or
you need to consider doing something else.’”
That afternoon, when he was on the phone
listening to the litigator yelling on the other end,
feeling his smile and his spirit slide toward the
floor, Bettinger thought of his mentor and knew it
was time for a change.
At the same time, two other things clicked
First, he attended an annual National Adoption Day event and noticed how happy everyone
involved was: “The lawyers. The families. The
“Well, I wasn’t going to retool and become a
family lawyer specializing in adoptions.” Still, he
was struck at how happy people were simply to
make a kid smile. And, he noticed, all the kids
Then a balloon artist performed at his daughter’s second birthday party, and there they were
again—smiling children and adults.
“I watched that guy and I said, ‘You know what? I
think I can do that,’” he says. “I think I can learn that.”
Thank goodness for the internet, he adds.
“Everything you ever want to know about twisting
balloons you can find on You Tube.”
He began devouring instructional videos, and
popping a lot of balloons: “It’s part of the game.”
Lesson No. 1, he says: “Never use cheap bal-
loons.” Go for quality, not the kind you find at the
No. 2: Beginners always use too much air.
“Every time you twist it, it pushes the air toward
the end of the balloon. If you’ve already filled the
He got good. And he got fast. He figures he
can now tie one- or two-balloon sculptures—dogs
and swords and that kind of thing—at nearly one
a minute. Which he does as often as he can, at a
variety of charity events and festivals throughout
But if you give him more time, he’ll make something a lot fancier. He’s developed into a full-blown
balloon sculptor, spending up to a week twisting
and weaving elaborate, multicolored pieces involving hundreds of balloons.
It started with a beehive and now includes waist-high lions, tigers and panda bears; golf bags and
gumball machines; and—for a cousin’s wedding—a
full-size bride and groom.
All free of charge. The only payment he accepts
Bettinger created a bubble-gum
dispenser for daughter Megan’s
candy-themed 13th birthday party.
This bride graced the wedding
rehearsal dinner of Bettinger’s cousin.
He then sculpted a bride and groom
the morning of her wedding. An
onlooker offered him $500 to sculpt a
couple for his daughter’s nuptials.