Grant of Summer

The official 2014 “Grant of Summer”

It seems like each year, more attention is paid to crowning a pop song the official “song of summer.” As someone who likes to celebrate even the most minor event, this silly tradition appeals to me.  So it was with this on my mind that I had a thought on a recent site visit.  I had stumbled onto the official “grant of summer.”

Like most great grants, the story started a few months ago.  Way back in December, in fact, on a frigid winter morning as I visited Winfield School to teach philanthropy lessons to every classroom in the building.

My first stop turned out to be Mrs. LeBaron’s kindergarten-to-second-grade special education class.  This lovingly adapted classroom is filled with cheerful staff and an enthusiastic group of learners.  Some rely on devices to help communicate and navigate the physical world, and thanks to these tools and the universal appeal of doing good, our philanthropy lesson was successful.

The class decided to award their $100 grant to the Stewart Park Pool for new toys.  At the time, I remember smiling at the thought of sunshine and swimming on such a cold day.   (Fun fact… with almost 70 classroom visits completed to date, this remains our only pool-related grant.) 

Little did I know in December that this grant was destined to be so much more!

When the kind folks at Corning’s Parks and Recreation Department received the grant award letter, the manager of the aquatics program was so moved by the gift that he went to Winfield School to thank the students in person.  The little faces – in all of their sweet and special glory – that greeted him turned his quick “thank you” visit into a planning session.  He returned a second time with catalogues, and one-by-one each child chose a pool toy for him to order.

Eventually winter ended and those toys arrived.  A third meeting took place to plan a pool party just for Mrs. LeBaron’s class so they could be the first children to play with the toys funded in part by their $100 classroom grant.

That’s how I found myself at the Stewart Park Pool on June 20th for a site visit and watching the official 2014 “grant of summer.”  Not only did the Parks and Recreation department open the pool just for the midday party, the staff ensured every single child had a personal lifeguard with them in the pool for the entire two hours (in addition to the lifeguards on rotation.)

Seeing lifeguards and children playing together – with brand new toys selected so thoughtfully – made me thankful for the sunglasses I was wearing on that gorgeous sunny day. They hid the tears in my eyes as I silently took in all the joy that had been created by one $100 grant.

It all really comes down to a series of simple acts – a wish for summer on a cold day, being so filled with gratitude that you want to express it in person, and making new friends in the pool. Philanthropy doesn’t have to be complicated.  Sometimes, it can be as sweet and carefree as the easy, breezy days of summer.