President Jimmy Carter, in 1978 proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. The impetus for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a homemaker in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her primary motivation it’s said was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. It is said that her hope was to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. In Alaska the first Grandparents Day celebration at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR) was held Sunday, September 9th thanks to Education Specialist Michelle Ostrowski, or Ranger Michelle as she is known by the kids. “I was looking at the programs that we already do at the Refuge and while we tap into a lot of school groups and pre-schoolers I noticed that there were no programs specific to our seniors. So we felt Grandparents Day would be a perfect occasion to pair up youth or grandchildren with someone special to them and bring them over to the Refuge for a special digital camera nature safari on our Keen-Eye trail. Then we created a scrapbook page as an art project with their handprints and photos we took along the trail and each child selected the photos they liked best and we printed them at the Environmental Center for them to take home along with a short poem sharing their experience together,” reported Ostrowski.
Grandmother Nature served up a picture perfect autumn afternoon for the inaugural event, “It was a beautiful day the sun was shining, the moon was even out we walked on trails and saw all sorts of stuff and it was just fantastic seeing all the kids and their grandparents celebrating the day together, it was great turn out and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year,” said Ranger Michelle. “I saw berries and a lake on the trail today and there were some red mushrooms and tan mushrooms,” said 7-year-old Madeline Fallon who brought her younger sister Hadley and her grandmother Brenda Cook for the Grandparents day event. “It was a wonderful day and the kids learn that they are the ones who will care for this beautiful place to pass on to their grandchildren what nature has provided for us,” added Grandma Cook.
KNWR has special family and educational events through the year and to find out about the schedule you can stop by the visitor’s center at the KNWR Headquarters on Ski Hill Rd. in Soldotna or call Ranger Michelle at 260-2839 and she’ll add you to her e-mail notification list.