Kids being kids during The Village Network's Celebration DayJuly 1, 2013
Kids being kids during The Village Network's Celebration Day
Giving youth an opportunity to interact during Celebration Day
By LINDA HALL Staff WriterPublished: July 1, 2013 4:00AM
WOOSTER -- The staff of The Village Network caught the new CEO's vision and turned the annual Celebration Day into an event not just commemorating the year's progress, but also representing its future.
"We actually decided to change the format," said Sameera Presswala, director of marketing and development, "to make it more kid-friendly and to make it an opportunity for (TVN youth) to interact with other people and other kids and have a good time."
The change was activated by the new CEO of The Village Network, Richard Graziano, said public relations director Jackie Campbell.
At his suggestion, staff members began "putting it in motion," Campbell said
"This way they're having more fun," Presswala said, against a backdrop of bounce houses, face painting, musical performances and a drum circle Wednesday evening. "We wanted it to be more free-flowing."
Youth enjoying the fun included "kids from the community, (children) of staff and of our donors," she said.
The event was "open to the public, not just TVN residents and youth," Campbell said, elaborating on how the plans for the special day shook out.
"We actually have a rock band here," Campbell said, and added to the musical offerings were karaoke and open mic.
She also highlighted bead decorating and a climbing wall.
"It's about (Graziano) being a catalyst for change," Presswala said, and working on "all that he envisioned."
Other changes include more involvement by TVN alumni, Campbell said, noting alumnus Jim Zedak "did a phenomenal job" of speaking to the youth in a residential and treatment foster care group setting earlier in the day.
Presswala described the entertainment, which began at 2:30 p.m., leading up to the dinner and speakers starting at about 5:15 p.m., as carnival-like.
"I love this atmosphere," Campbell said, noting that even the detail of the face-painting went "beyond what I was thinking. They are going all out."
"This is our open mic stage," music therapist Ryan Adamov said of the picnic area down by the lake.
"We had our youth rock band play, staff performances and staff and kids performances," Adamov said, using "songs the youth wrote and songs they've learned."
He said they had been working on the drum circle for the last two months.
"This is more of a festival atmosphere," he said, and "a better display of what we're doing with the kids."
"It's nice, very nice ... (there is) a lot going on," said Dawn Ferrebee, a TVN foster mother from Warren.
"It's always really nice," added Ferrebee, who said foster parenting was hard "when we first started it," and is still hard every now and then, but "I love it."
"We've had older kids who have left and still contact us," she said.
"There are a ton of foster kids here," said John Guenther, a vocational therapist.
"The kids are having a blast," he said. "Kids are able to have the freedom to pick and choose (activities)."
"It brings kids and families together. I'm for it," said Ferenc Relle Jr., a former TVN employee.
"From here on out," said Lynn Moomaw, president of the board of trustees, the annual meeting of trustees and corporation members will be in December, allowing Celebration Day to focus entirely on the youth, "engaging families and the community."
"It's a great opportunity for some of our kids," said staff member Mark Welty, "to have a day of fun ... being kids."
"They come here with so many worries and so many issues," he said. "(Today) we've had zero problems."
"(This) gets everybody to look at kids as kids," who are "high-fiving each other and dancing with each other," Welty said.
The day of fun may be the tip of the iceberg.
"We want them to get treatment and not even know they're getting treatment," he said.
Instead of telling them they have two hours of group therapy ahead of them, they'll be alerted to two hours of painting, music and other ways they can express their feelings and receive guidance.
"We have as many recreation therapists as we do counselors and social workers," Welty said.
Bottom line, said Moomaw, "they're kids."
Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230, or email@example.com