Children First Turns 25

A letter to all Children Firsters from Donna…

On October 10, with many of you here in person, and all of you here in our hearts, we celebrated 25 years of Children First.  We celebrated in the rain, under Babe the Big Blue Tarp, surrounded by fairy lights.


We celebrated with music – some gifted to us by generous Children First musicians, and some we made all together.

We celebrated with art – making art around the tile painting table, in creation station, with blocks, spreading color all over the rain-drenched easel – and in the presence of art, especially the beautiful drawings of signs on all the autograph posters that covered the walls of the library and the window room.

We celebrated with play – some rambunctious, some quiet and cozy – at the creek, all over the playground, in the loft room, and in and around the crowd of conversing grown-ups.

We celebrated remembering – as all but one of the kids in the circle stepped up to share a memory or appreciation (Collin passed, but he told me his later)… and as each of us found old friends and traded stories in conversation… and as we crowded into the bathroom to study the old friend photos on the wall there, and as we signed autograph posters to acknowledge time we had shared together.

We celebrated connection – reconnecting with old friends, connecting with new friends, and in the case of kids who have virtually transformed over the five or ten or fifteen or twenty years since we last met –creating a new connection that is rooted in the old.

And maybe most of all, we celebrated CELEBRATING.  We were proud of ourselves for knowing how to have fun in the weather we got.  We felt lucky to be part of a community that is willing to work so hard to make something beautiful we can enjoy together.  We liked the way it felt to claim our collective commitment to and belief in childhood, in beauty, in joy, in play, in creativity, in community, in lasting relationship, in love.

So, thank you.  And good for us.

Here are some numbers from the party.

60. The number of Children Firsters at the party.
6. The number of Children First teachers at the party.
50. The number of different Children First families represented at the party.
93. The number of 25th Birthday T-Shirts being worn – or soon to be worn – in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, California and Georgia.
Around 1400. The number of photographs taken by Josh Eggleston.
485. The number of photographs in the slide show that ran in the Loft Room during the party.

2.2 Ounces. The weight of the pile of sticky papers I dropped into “finished work” as we completed preparation tasks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
84. The number of autograph posters made and signed.
10. The number of attendees who traveled significant distances to come to the party –5 Ransom-Ramsey’s from Atlanta, 2 Rolfes from Asheville, and King-McClain kids from Boston, Maryland and Ohio.
$445 in donations made last night
79. The age of the oldest attendee – the “Founding Grandmother” of Children First, Annette King.

Happy 25th Children Firsters!

“Happy Thing I Remember about Children First”

at the Children First 25th Anniversary

Class of 1994

Kyle: The two best things I remember are
1. In the back room there are some boxes that seemed really tall until now. And I remember making a parachute out of 9 sheets of paper and I swore the parachute would work…
2. And the other thing was the stream. We went on field trip one time and found what I thought was a worm wrapped around a stick, and it turned out it was a snake and we ended up keeping it and kept in a terrarium.

Class of 1997

Cara: All of you.

Class of 1999

Anna Grace: That we used to make the graduation piñatas so hard that nothing would happen to them when the kids hit them and we got to the parents and still no, not breaking – and my dad would finally have to come and rip it apart with his hands.

Andy: Story time was always my favorite, every Tuesday I think, always my favorite.

Class of 2000

Jack: I don’t remember a whole lot. There are a few people I recognize and I guess that counts.

Class of 2002

Josh: Pretending in the loft room, pretending to be leopards in the loft room.

Class of 2003

Will: Going into the bamboo forest and being told there was a lion back there and people would go searching for it and I was too terrified (Donna: Or smart!), but mostly terrified.

Class of 2005

Maya: I remember picking honeysuckle and mulberries.

Sydney: I remember always playing dress up in the loft room and was so excited when the monkey bars were in there.

Izzy: Reading the Sophie chapter books with Donna up on the deck.

Class of 2006

Gigi: Spending a lot of my time upside down on the zipline and monkey bars.

Emi: I had a favorite stuffed cat named Snowflake – and Anna gave Snowflake to me.

Class of 2007

Ian: Puff the Magic Dragon.

Class of 2008

Susanna: Learning about Martin Luther King’s most powerful moments and feeling deeply connected to him because we shared a last name.

Alena: Picking as many raspberries as I could reach through the fence.

Joe: Seeing how many people could get stopped up in the slide before they started tumbling out.

Bea: We put on dance recitals in the loft room and my brother would play the music and we’d all dress up.

Gabe: Spending a lot of time in the music room, playing the instruments a LOT of the time.

Jaishri: Collecting bugs, a lot of bugs, in my hats.

Henry: Building dams in the river.

Class of 2009

Erin: Going to the Eno.

Grace: I told a story once about how trees could walk – a whole story about how they could walk around.

Annabelle: Playing with Bea and Gabe on the playground

Eleri: Painting each other’s faces and our own faces and not really wanting to wash it off.

Class of 2010

Xavier: Children First is where I got my drawing skills.  And, I remember being outside and climbed on that thing [points to the arch climber] and I thought it was completely safe and I jumped down and found out it was not at all and I just kept doing that and doing that.

Theo: I remember the building blocks.

Jadie: The creek.

Sanjay: Playing on the monkey bars on the loft.

Class of 2011

Niko: When I tried to fly off a rock and ended up face-planting into the river.

Casey: Building one foot tall skyscrapers with Niko and pretending that certain people were falling from the top of them and breaking all their bones.  (Donna: that would have been Dr. Doom.)

Mina: Falling into the creek –A LOT.

Collin (told to Donna later):  Being in the hammock by myself outside.

Class of 2012

Maya: Building dams in the sand river and making the water flow through.

Alexandra: Camping and getting marshmallows stuck in my hair.

Gwen: Going to the Eno every week.

Casey: I have two.  The time when Cara taught me to skip stones at the Eno and going to Sharp Top.  (Later Casey came to Donna and asked to add one more – Wow Day after Parent’s Night).

Kai: I enjoyed taking apart the printer.

Noam: Playing with Justice.

Class of 2014

Lauren: At the Eno looking in the river and digging our hands into the mud.

Justice: Using the blocks that stick together in building the little track on the deck.

Reyna: Hanging upside down on the monkey bars.

Zella: Getting up on the top of the monkey bars.

Gabby: Playing Martin Luther King.

Class of 2015

Kaia: Hanging upside down on the monkey bars.

Hannah: I remember loving Donna and Sarah.

Alex: Jumping off the monkey bars.

Jesse: Getting up on top of the monkey bars and then jumping off on my face.

Stella Pierce: Swinging from the rope at the creek.

Owen: Sliding on the monkey bars.

Current Children Firsters (Classes of 2016 and 2017)

Lillian Pence: Playing with Alex.

Aion: Sarah brings this cake and I think it’s going to be super yummy! Just wait until the show is over!

Lior: Being in alone space.

Chloe: Playing family with Parker.

Miles: Playing at the bike deck.

Parker: Playing family with Lillian.

Sam: Playing on the bike deck.

Finn: Playing at the bike deck.

Lia: Play on the bike deck.

Elisabeth: Play at the bike deck.

Avery: Play on the bike deck.