Roger E Walker Jr Memorial Road Ribbon Cutting 1 11.3.17.jpg

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Sheriff Roger E Walker Jr. Road designation at the intersection of Illinois Route 48 and Mound Road Friday November 3, 2017.

The late Sheriff Roger Walker Jr. would have been proud.

Last week, members of the Greater Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce and Black Chamber of Commerce of Illinois announced plans to have a balloon release to celebrate the inspiring life of Walker, who died in 2012. He was 63.

There is certainly much to celebrate. Walker worked for the Macon County Sheriff's Office for three decades and in 1998 became the first African-American elected sheriff in the state. He was also director of the Illinois Department of Corrections from 2003 to 2009

In 2016, Walker was inducted into to the Decatur Hall of Fame. The Legislature in 2017 approved naming a portion of Illinois 48 the Roger E. Walker Memorial Road.

This year, when the Herald & Review posted on social media plans for the Thursday event, numerous users said that while Walker should be recognized, they worried about the environmental impact of all those balloons.

They had a point.

Once a mainstay of memorials, weddings and school events, balloon releases have been shown to harm wildlife far from launch sites. The string is especially problematic.

Organizers of the Walker event took note of the comments. And then they did something that seems to be increasingly rare in our world: They used the feedback and adjusted.

Instead of balloons, they would release bubbles.

In the grand scheme of our hectic lives, changing from balloons to bubbles might seem trivial. But given these times in which we live, when there seems to be so much dividing us, there's something to be said about the power of listening.

"We will continue to find ways in the future to celebrate his service to this community and the state of Illinois as the first African-American sheriff," they wrote on social media. "We welcome the community to share feedback and help us to improve each year's celebration of a man who made priceless contributions to our great community."

We think Sheriff Walker would approve.

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