Tribune Print Share Text

The grandchildren next door

Fox Run ‘adopts’ students at neighboring school

Created date

August 24th, 2010

When Helen Weingarden talks about Fox Run s Adopted Grandparents program, her face lights up. If you love children, this is a rewarding experience, she says. The program brings together volunteer grandmas and grandpas from Fox Run in Novi with 4th graders from Franklin Road Christian School next door. The groups take turns hosting one another for monthly activities that vary with the seasons autumn poetry, holiday carols, and spring plantings.

Original idea

WhenFox Runopened seven years ago, a 4th grade parent gave the class flowers to take as a welcome gift to their new neighbors. Teacher Geri Yost and the kids delivered them in person. Yost, who expected to find a nursing home, left surprised by the vibrant community she actually encountered. She proposed an intergenerational program toFox Runstaff and received an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Today, about a dozen adopted grandparents and twice as many children are involved. Grandmas Helen Weingarden and Barb Birmingham, among the first residents to join the program seven years ago, still participate. We find the interaction with the kids to be lots of fun, says Weingarden. They re so excited when they come here. They love to see you, and they run up and give you a hug.

Monthly activities

September is get-acquainted month. In October, Weingarden who could make anything fun leads a poetry class. She reads poems and explains how to write them. Then the grandparents help the kids with ideas and encourage them in their efforts. The children write poems on the spot, copy them, add drawings back at school, then send the poems toFox Run, where they re displayed near the caf . I never think they re going to like poetry because it s like a lesson, Weingarden says, but they really like it! One year, when we went to the school for a Christmas tea, a 5th-grade boy told me how much he enjoyed the poetry session the year before. He even said he still had his poem. Each new crop of 4th graders has high expectations for the get-togethers because the 5th graders have clued them in. Even 3rd graders get a taste of the future when all three classes troop toFox Run sFireside Restaurant at Christmastime. The kids fan out to sit at tables with residents, and everyone sings carols together. This year s March program was a surprise and had the kids hanging over their seats with excitement, says Birmingham. That s because aFox Runstaff member, illusionist John Millheim, put on a magic show inFox Run sperforming arts theater. He cut off a staff person s arm, made pennies appear out of nowhere, and pulled rabbits out of hats, Birmingham says. The kids were absolutely enthralled. How could he do that? they kept asking. The end-of-school-year flower planting at the Friendship Garden byFox Run saquatics center is a much-anticipated tradition. The kids kick off shoes and socks, get down on hands and knees, and with guidance from the grandparents, plant annuals as a gift to the community. After we show them how to dig that hole, they want to do the planting themselves, says Birmingham. They re proud of doing the work. When the planting s done, The best part is hosing off the children s feet at the end, and they re screaming because the water s cold, says Weingarden. She laughs and adds, We don t have any grandparents brave enough to take off their shoes.