Story by Kristina Hoti
Family Central, a parenting support network in Warwick, hosted a Ladybug Picnic on Sat., Jun. 17 at the Pine Island Park for families and children to kick off summer. Family Central’s mission is to “strengthen relationships and create nurturing communities where children and families flourish.”
Femi Ford, an Advisory Board Member with the organization, greeted arriving families where a $5 donation was requested per attending child. “This is our first fun event for the kids. We’ve done mostly information sessions for parents,” she said. She explained that the group was excited to kick off summer with this event, to teach kids about the environment and the value insects can have.
Ford’s children, Ellie, 8 and Leo, 7, arrived early with her to help set up the many tables under the park pavilion, which were then filled with craft projects, free books for kids to take, sweet baked treats, and water bottles, which were for sale.
Sporting a large stick-on name tag that said, “staff,” Ellie explained that she helped put together the decorations which were hanging from the ceiling and she helped put out the activities. “I played on the playground a little. I also made something for my friends.”
In addition to the many crafts for children to make, there were onion sack races, plenty of jump ropes, hula hoops, and bubbles on hand for children to play with while enjoying the afternoon outside. Although rain threatened throughout the day, the picnic went off with no precipitation to dampen spirits. The cloudy skies even provided a cool respite from the heat of the sun, making conditions optimal.
Family Central Advisory Board Member, Stephanie O’Leary, helped children at the crafts tables. A child psychologist and author of “Parenting in the Real World,” she explained that Family Central strives to raise awareness in the community among parents of the events that are happening in the area, both in Warwick and in surrounding towns. She went on to say that Family Central looks to “sponsor events where kids can learn to use their hands, and unplug for a little bit.”
O’Leary said that the organization is also exploring ways to “bridge the gap,” involving teens in tutoring younger children, bringing the resources together that exist within the community.
The big event of the picnic, by far, was the release of 6,000 ladybugs, making their grand entrance into the butterfly garden at Pine Island Park. Stacy and Warren Congdon, owners of Greenwood Lake Garden Center, orchestrated the release of their donated ladybugs. Event staff and parents called the children over from the activities and playground and gathered them into the garden, ensuring that no one missed the release.
Stacy Congdon provided a lesson for the captivated children, explaining why ladybugs are a great natural way to eliminate the “bad bugs” in your garden without using chemical pesticides. The children learned that ladybugs eat about 50 soft-bodied insects per day. All of the children were given a chance to touch the ladybugs as they were released from square packets, each containing about 1,500 lady bugs.
Congdon shared that these packets can be stored in the refrigerator, since “ladybugs go dormant naturally when it’s cold.” Releasing the insects into a warm environment causes them to wake up. They will only fly during the day time, in dry conditions. Kids exclaimed, with glee, as the ladybugs were shaken into their hands, and onto the plants in the garden. Shouts of “they tickle!” and “this is weird!” could be heard.
Also represented at the Ladybug Picnic was the organization Warwick Playground Dreams. Hanne and Michael Chambers were on site to share the future plans the group has for the refurbishment of the playground equipment at Stanley-Deming Park in the Village of Warwick, and to raffle off an appropriately themed ladybug growth chart. Warwick Playground Dreams is a 100% volunteer-based and donation-driven collaboration of Warwick parents.
Carlos Cardona, a substitute school teacher at St. Stephens School in Warwick, provided musical entertainment. He even learned the “Ladybug Picnic” song from Sesame Street, just for the occasion. Cardona will be playing at the Warwick Farmer’s Market on Sun., Jun. 25 and is available for hire to play for children’s parties and other events.
Family Central is always looking for volunteers within the community, to become involved and participate in their parenting education sessions. More information is available via their Facebook Group Page, or by sending an email to FamilyCentralNY@gmail.com.