by Cori Hilsgen
Early-childhood staff welcomed 354 parents and young children to its annual Family Fun Night Oct. 13 at Colts Academy.
Parents and children participated in activities such as face painting, gym play, fishing for sounds, puppets and play, pumpkin-fun math and science, art activities and more. There was also story time featuring guests reading in various languages and a Scholastic book fair.
Pizza, apples and milk could be purchased for snacks.
Outside, children and families checked out a St. Joseph Police and Fire Department vehicle and a school bus.
Parents, who were curious about the upcoming levy, could also attend a presentation with child care provided.
St. Joseph Police Officer Jason Luethmers was busy handing out stickers and helping children climb into a patrol car.
St. Joseph residents Rebecca and Evan Kinnear brought their two children – Emmaleigh, 4, and Rylan, 1, who checked out the car.
“Emmaleigh is in the program and really likes it,” Rebecca said.
Roger and Jill Friedrich from Rockville also brought their children – Henry, 2, and Freya, 1, to see the vehicles.
“Henry loves trucks and school buses,” Roger said. “He’s very excited to see the fire truck.”
Michaela and Tony LeBlanc from St. Cloud brought their children – Lauren, 5, and Jack, 2. Both enjoyed checking out the inside of the school bus.
“We just had so much fun,” Michaela said. “It’s a blast to see teachers outside of the school setting.”
Janis Minnerath and Kara Gordon were busy registering families. Minnerath is a speech-language pathologist for the St. Cloud School District and has worked for the district for 20 years. Gordon is a student teacher and Minnesota Reading Corp literacy tutor.
“It’s nice to have something for the preschoolers, where we can let the preschoolers be preschoolers,” Minnerath said.
“This is the third event I have worked at, and it’s really fun to see everyone come out,” Gordon said.
Nolan Ziegler, 4, St. Joseph, was busy crawling through the gym equipment. He was accompanied by his mother, Melinda Shaw, his brother Elijah Ziegler, 7, and his grandparents.
“It’s always been a great place to let kids have fun,” Melinda said.
St. Cloud resident George Gombos brought his daughter Ava, 3, to the event. Ava was in the program last year and was busy exploring a butterfly and puppet table.
St. Joseph resident Katie Howe attended with her children – Sawyer, 4, and Lily, 9. The family enjoyed creating butterflies and paper-bag puppets together.
“It’s awesome,” Katie said. “It’s a great idea and lots of fun for our kids.”
Families throughout the area were invited to attend the event free, with food-shelf donations being accepted. Children who attended the event received a free book.
Early-childhood outreach director Patti McGreevy said staff worked hard to provide an environment that was fun, inviting and gave families ideas for easy activities to do at home with their children.
“The level of excitement and the joy we see in the eyes of the young children at this event is a reward we cannot measure,” McGreevy said.
“Our family nights are two of my favorite events in our program,” said Alicia Jepsen, early-childhood services director.
The St. Cloud School District 742 early childhood program moved into Colts Academy after a fire destroyed its former location at the Roosevelt School in St. Cloud last year.
Jepsen said Roosevelt is being rebuilt so that alternative special-education programs can be located at the facility.
A new building is being built on Clark Field by Tech High School and will include birth-adult programs such as early childhood, community education, the welcome center, adult basic education and the district administration offices.
Jepsen said the plan is to begin construction in the spring of 2016 and to be able to move into the new building in July 2017.
With the new facility, families will have more transportation options such as city busing.
“It’s very exciting,” Jepsen said. “We have been so fortunate to have had the Colts Academy facility during this time, and it’s exciting for (St. Joseph) to now be getting a community center.”