by Dennis Dalman
Sherry Larson has done day care for so long – 33 years – that she now looks after two children of a woman she took care of as a child many years ago – Joey and Brianna Neumann.
“Their mother, Stephanie, I did daycare for when she was just a baby, and I also did daycare for Stephanie’s brothers.”
Larson was recently named “Stearns County Daycare Provider of the Year” by the Stearns-Benton Child Care Association. Juliene Dumonceaux of Foley was named “Benton County Daycare Provider of the Year.”
“I was honored, overcome and speechless when I got that award,” Larson said. “I talk all the time, but I was just speechless! That award made me feel so proud.”
Larson’s client parents were not at all surprised she was honored as “Best.” For years, Larson has been so esteemed by her customers she’s never had to advertise. Good word-of-mouth gets her all the business she can handle.
Larson’s business, dubbed simply “Sherry Larson’s Day Care,” is located in a mobile home she and her husband, Mark, used to own on a five-acre site near the Upper Deck north of Sartell. Larson’s daughter, Raelynn Justin, now lives in that mobile home with her husband, Brad, and children Drew and Dana. The arrangement is ideal because Larson does day care for both Drew and Dana, whose parents both work.
Larson and her husband built a home in Grey Eagle years ago. Every week day, Sherry and Mark get up at 4 a.m. and drive the 37 miles to the daycare home. Then Mark drives to his job at Menard’s in St. Cloud and when the day is done, he picks his wife up and they drive back to Grey Eagle. If the weather is nasty, they are lucky enough to be able to stay overnight at the daycare home.
Caring for children, Larson said, is “in her blood.” And it’s no wonder because as the oldest sibling of nine, she grew up on a farm near Staples. Early on, she absorbed a solid farm-work ethic and helped her mother take care of the younger children.
Later, when she and her husband lived in Sartell’s Hi-Vue Mobile-Home Park, she took care of a little boy named Jeff.
“And from there I just kept going, and I’ve been doing daycare ever since,” she said.
Larson’s daycare children range in age from 7 months to 15 ??? years, but the number of children she has each day varies, depending on their schedules. The total number of children is 16, but she never has them all at one time.
Besides daughter Raelynn, the Larsons also have a son, Jacob, who lives in Sauk Rapids with wife, Annie, and their two sons.
Larson said having a daycare is endlessly rewarding.
“It’s the smiles I get every day,” she said. “I get to just play and be my own boss. We do so many things. We play ball outside, we play on the merry-go-round and the teeter-totter. We swing and play hide-and-seek. If the weather isn’t nice, we play inside with board games or we just sit and talk.”
The key to being a good daycare provider, Larson said, is to be patient while listening to children and loving them.
“Kids are so full of knowledge,” she said. “They can teach us adults something new every day. If you look at the world through their eyes, you can see a world of a different beauty and brightness. We adults can look at the sky and see an overcast, gray sky. But children don’t see it that way. They will notice the clouds moving, the trees waving above. They see everything with fresh eyes.”
Larson has two favorite daycare mottos that apply to life in general, as well as to daycare:
“You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit.”
“Where kids come to play and learn, hugs are plentiful, kisses are free and the stories will never end.”
Larson, who is 59, plans to do daycare until she is 66.
“That’s if my health remains good,” she added. “I have plenty of energy. I was born with energy. With me it’s go, go, go. I won’t let grass grow under my feet.”