Little people, big celebration

Apr. 18, 2013 @ 09:41 PM

Shrieking in delight as they ran and played, approximately 300 toddlers took part in Sanford’s annual Day of the Young Child on Thursday morning at the Lions Club Fairgrounds.

Put on by the local Coalition for Families and Partnership for Children, two groups whose staffs work closely with young children, the event consisted of an obstacle course, puppet show, African drumming demonstration, bouncy castle, painting and more.

“They learn through play,” said Judy Thomas, program manager for childcare resource and referral at the Coalition for Families and a former school teacher. “But it’s not just play. There’s also music and art and more.”

21-year-old Kellie Hamilton was at the event with her two daughters, ages 1 and 4, and said she hadn’t come before but heard about the opportunity from her child care providers.

“I didn’t know this was for all of Sanford,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”

Hamilton joked that she’d take a turn jumping on the inflatables if anyone would let her, although her 4-year-old didn’t share the same adventurous spirit: She had to be helped down from the slide after getting to the top and deciding it didn’t seem like such a great idea after all. But the girl wasn’t too shaken up, immediately trying to sprint off to one of the other activities.

“I’m hoping this gets them good and worn out, so I can go home and put them to sleep,” Hamilton said.

While Hamilton brought two children, Donna Newell had about a dozen in her care. As a lead teacher with Sanford Child Care, Newell said she has been coming to this event for years. Thomas and other organizers said they weren’t sure just how long this event has been held in Sanford, but Newell said she has been coming for more than two decades. In fact, she was there with her 20-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Hill, who attended the event when she was a young child and is now helping her mom with the current generation of youngsters.

Newell said the generational divide is starting to catch up with her, and she now looks after the children of some of the very first ones she cared for after joining Sanford Child Care about 24 years ago. Scolding one boy in the 3-5 age group she had charge of, who was scrambling up the bleachers, she then added with a laugh, “his dad was the exact same way.”

But the young man eventually settled down when two members of Tam Tam Mandingue, an African drum group based in Winston-Salem, took the stage at the fairgrounds in traditional garb, playing authentic West African instruments. The two taught the audience a call-and-response chant from Ghanaian culture to go along with a clapping and dancing routine to do while they pounded out an intricate rhythm, and children and adults alike got into the act.

“It’s just a good day for the children,” Newell said just before the percussion started. “They get to come play with the other children. They love it. They’re having a ball.”