DANSVILLE — While circulating around the first-grade classroom at Holy Family School, Debbi Burr was surprised to find “Grandma Debbi” among the names posted on a wall. Turns out that Burr’s name was submitted by her granddaughter, Katelyn Applin — who, on this day, was giving Grandma a guided tour of the room.
“Is that me up there, a prayer request for when I broke my ankle? Well, it must have worked, because I’m feeling better,” remarked Burr, whose injury had occurred in February. Then she told Katelyn with a laugh, “Now put up another request so the swelling goes down.”
A few feet further ahead, Burr spied another list containing words for students to spell out, and quickly threw her hands over Katelyn’s eyes: “What’s the word of the day?” she asked her 6-year-old granddaughter. “G-a-r-d-e-n,” Katelyn responded correctly.
Burr was among numerous grandparents who were the honored guests at Holy Family on Monday, April 18. According to Deborah Goering, school principal, she knew that Grandparent’s Day was destined to be a hit right from its opening activities — a light breakfast in the school hall, followed by a prayer service and concert staged by the children before a packed house.
“We put up 100 chairs and had to add, I’ll bet you, 30 more,” Goering remarked.
Grandparents then followed Holy Family’s 130 students (grades pre-kindergarten through 6) back to their classrooms for tours as well as a variety of fun projects. For instance, in the fourth-grade room, Jake Weiand patiently held construction paper in place while his grandson, Daniel Clinton, applied glue, tape and paper strips to create a colorful insect.
“It’s a dragonfly without an eye,” said Daniel, 10, as he earnestly checked the desk and floor for a little round paper “eye” that had become unglued.
Weiand remarked that Grandparent’s Day is a great concept, noting that “we didn’t do anything like this when I was at Sacred Heart (the former school) in Perkinsville.”
Katelyn said that her favorite regular activity with her grandmother is “going to her home” — but on this day, Burr was happy to be on Katelyn’s turf instead.
“Spending time in my granddaughter’s environment, I’m sharing it on her level,” Burr explained.
To close the day out, children got to share lunch with their grandparents. In addition, grandparents also had the option of taking students home. Goering noted that aunts, uncles and special friends were invited to take part in the day as well, to better ensure that each student had at least one person with whom to pair off. In many cases the youths were joined by multiple sets of grandparents, and even a great-grandparent or two.
Special awards were given to grandparents for the following “achievements”: driving the longest distance (Katina Nortier, 80 miles); having the most grandchildren (Gail Welch, 30); being the oldest graduate of an area Catholic school (Kay Hoag, class of 1942 at the former St. Patrick’s School in Mount Morris); and having the most grandchildren who currently attend Holy Family School (Marv and Mary Ann Dixon, four).
Goering said that Grandparent’s Day serves as “a way for the grandchildren to share their faith experience with their grandparents, and to let their grandparents know how much they love them.” The principal added that in many instances, “Mom and Dad are working, and the grandparents aren’t. So who better to come and share in this?”
This year, for the first time, the annual event also welcomed students and grandparents from the former St. Joseph’s School in Wayland, which closed last year to consolidate with St. Mary’s School in Dansville. The St. Mary’s building was renamed Holy Family School.
Hoag, who attended Grandparent’s Day as the guest of granddaughters Katie Miner, a second-grader, and Shelby Hoag, a fourth-grader, said she has been on hand for the event “ever since they’ve had it.”
“It just brings back old memories from when my children went to Catholic school,” said Hoag, noting that all seven of her children graduated from St. Mary’s School. “I was so grateful my children could attend Catholic school.”