Children at Valley Christian School stood quietly in a raised choir stand while some of their friends scurried behind a black curtain to set up for a puppet show, part of the annual Grandparents Day assembly on Tuesday.
The short skit between hymns portrayed a fictional Thanksgiving table like the ones many kids themselves might soon join. The son celebrated “no school and food, lots of it,” while the father spoke about “a whole day of nothing but football.” The daughter looked forward to Black Friday shopping and the mother to decorating the house for Christmas.
“I think you’ve left something out, like saying thank you,” the wise grandfather said as a girl with an outstretched hand moved his mouth, bobbing her head and quietly speaking the words to herself behind the curtain. The puppets bowed their heads in prayer as the grandpa continued: “As we enjoy the blessings of our lives, let’s not forget to thank the Creator and Lord who provides them all. And to you, Lord, who loves us and gives us everything we need, we give thanks for this meal and all of your blessings. Amen.”
Every year for nearly a decade, the school has recognized grandparents as among the important blessings in their students’ lives with a half-day of activities just before Thanksgiving, when relatives might already be visiting from out of town.
In the morning, hundreds of grandparents tour the classrooms, working with their grandchildren on craft projects such as knitted frames. They then gathered in the gym for a music program. After that, sixth-graders hosted a lunch for their grandparents, personally serving them food and coffee.
Head of School Dave Entwistle welcomed the families to the gym Tuesday before the assembly and read Psalm 78 from the Bible, which describes the importance of elders to continuing values and tradition.
“What our fathers have told us we will not hide from their children. We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done,” he read. Then he added, “These are God’s words talking about you all as grandparents. You have a huge part to play in the lives of these precious grandkids.”
Debra Bernhart drove to Missoula from Post Falls, Idaho, on Tuesday morning after being unable to leave a day earlier because of closed roads. She was glad to make it just in time to see the school’s music program and to have lunch with her 11-year-old granddaughter, Riley, who is in sixth grade.
“It’s a happy place,” Bernhart said, noting she often receives compliments about Riley’s manners, which she attributes to the school’s teachings about respect. “It’s nice to have that in a school system.”
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Her granddaughter said it is important to honor “my mom’s and dad’s parents.”
“It’s what Jesus would want you to do. He was kind to others,” she said, noting her the grandmother sitting next to her is “kind and gives us lots of sweets, and I love her for that.”
Ken and Louise James of Polson will host family at their home for Thanksgiving but made the drive down to Missoula Tuesday to see their third Grandparents Day assembly. They are grateful for the chance to see the progress made by their grandson, 11-year-old Bridger Serna, academically and in his spiritual life.
“We’re glad for him. We’re here to support him,” he said.
“They learn about the Lord,” she said. “It gives them a Christian foundation.”
Bridger, like all sixth-graders, had taken an etiquette class on Monday to learn “who to greet first and how to act” as they served their elders lunch. He said it is important “to have family.”
Earlier, as children sang at the assembly, grandparents took photos or recorded the moment on camcorders and cellphones. Many sang along to the worship songs and some raised their hands in praise.
“The joyous thing to me was all those kids and their voices coming out, just so loud and boisterous,” Karen Bertapelle said. Her husband, Al, added, “My granddaughter in kindergarten, she was singing every word of every song. I watched her. It’s amazing to me.”
They acknowledge their family is blessed.
“Hopefully, we have passed something on to them that is good for them,” Al Bertapelle said of his grandchildren.
“They need to know that they’re loved so much by all of us,” Karen Bertapelle said. He added, “And are they ever.”