MAGICAL FROST VALLEY
Awesome Lessons in Sharing, Caring,
and Making a Difference in Frost Valley
For thirty years, Sayville Middle School Eighth-graders have enjoyed the privilege of participating in the Frost Valley YMCA Environmental Educational program. Typically during their four-day, three-night stay in late November or early December at the Ulster County camp in upstate New York, the students usually gain a practical understanding of the unique ecological balance of resources in the Catskill region, as well as learn about how to relate better with others and the natural world around them.
To some extent, this year may have seemed no different than previous years. The students, chaperoned by select Middle School staff, discovered team-building skills through the extensive outdoor educational facility with such activities as orienteering by using a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) unit, forest ecology, geology, night awareness, stream studies, resources management, even square dancing and karaoke.
And as expected, the Eighth-graders came home with memorable, positive life-changing experiences, despite the drenching rain and cold temperatures. “Their first two days were met with tremendous rain and flooding, the most the region has seen in recent years,” said Middle School Technology teacher Jim McLoughlin who organized the Frost Valley trip with LOTE teacher Annamarie Martin. “Our students showed their true colors and made the best of a soggy situation.”
But this Frost Valley trip had some notable differences.
Well in advance of the trip, the Middle School organizers embedded a few surprises for the students while they developed the yearly theme based upon an important character-education topic. “I Care For You, You Care For Me, We Care For Each Other!” was borrowed from the Moyer Foundation (founded in 2000 by World-Series Champion, Major-League All-Star pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen) whose mission “is to help children in distress and grieving the loss of loved ones.”
Keeping some aspects of the upcoming Frost Valley activities quiet, the faculty only introduced this year’s theme to the students in their morning advisory periods, during which each advisory group created a poster on the topic of “caring” for a Frost Valley poster competition.
Each finished poster was packed along with the students and brought to Frost Valley where the students voted for the best poster. Top prize would be a special dessert baked by Sayville Senior and Culinary Arts student Julia DePomeo; (Congratulations to Mrs. Thorvaldsen’s Advisory for winning the Poster Contest.) As the students matured through their Frost Valley experiences, they documented their thoughts and feelings about caring on peace signs, handmade by Mr. McLoughlin’s Advisory, which were hung in the Frost Valley dining hall and later brought back for display in the school’s commons.
The Sayville students proved they could adapt well to the Frost Valley environment. More importantly, they demonstrated their genuine capacity for caring by incorporating—without suspicion or prejudice—in their activities a 13-year-old girl who traveled up from Virginia to join them. “Our Sayville kids accepted the new girl without question,” Mrs. Martin commented with tremendous admiration. “They made her feel welcome and part of the Sayville Middle School family from their first meeting at lunch on Tuesday.”
It was only later, during the last night’s assembly, that they discovered the secret about the new girl, who was a “kid just like them.” Her name was Abby Miller, and she had spent the last two years of her young life actively making a difference in the lives of others.
Since 2008, Abby Miller has been raising not only her singing voice but funds for a little girl named Taylor Love who had been diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer since birth. Described as “an aspiring musician with a big voice and even bigger heart,” Abby has dedicated her musical gifts and songs (via YouTube) raising funds to help Taylor and others like her find a cure. At first, her reach was limited, but Abby’s perseverance has led to bigger audiences, greater donations, and as her grass-root efforts began to snowball, her success in funding cancer research has attracted national media attention.
During the planning stages of the 2010 Frost Valley Trip, Mr. McLoughlin and Mrs. Martin learned about Abby’s efforts. “This young lady has raised more then $250,000 dollars, through the Pepsi Refresh Project and other individual efforts, towards research for Neoblastoma,” Mr. McLoughlin explained, “and that was just in the month of September 2010. “
Realizing how well Abby’s mission would tie in with the caring theme, she was invited to help deliver the theme message about caring with a performance for one night at Frost Valley. Instead, Abby and her family (after numerous phone calls, emails, and a personal meeting with Abby and her mother) decided to give Abby an “undercover adventure” for four days and three nights with the Sayville students.
When at last Abby’s secret identity was revealed during the assembly and she sang for the Sayville students and answered questions, her powerful message of “singing with a purpose” and making a difference, one person at a time, left an impact on all the Sayville Eighth-graders. (“So much so that, immediately upon returning from Frost Valley,” Mr. McLoughlin and Mrs. Martin inserted, “two Eighth-graders encouraged 327 students in the Middle School to get involved in the Macy’s ‘National Letters to Santa Campaign’ which raised money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.”)
Amazed and delighted to discover their anonymous new friend was a “famous charity singer,” the students received yet another surprise that involved technology. The Middle School Frost Valley organizers arranged to have the last night’s assembly streamed live to the parents at home (197 households in all) so they could share in learning about Abby’s efforts and her message of hope.
In addition, a long-standing tradition was upheld. Former Middle School Principal and now Sayville Superintendent Dr. Walter Schartner, who had participated in Frost Valley since the beginning, “took time from his busy schedule to spend Wednesday night through Thursday evening with us,” Mrs. Martin added, “After, he traveled back late Thursday to Long Island. This year's trip was magical!”
With the pledge “I Care For You, You Care For Me, We Care For Each Other!” incorporated in the fond memories of their Frost Valley experience, the Sayville Middle School students returned inspired to demonstrate, one person at a time, that when it comes to caring, “we really do.”
To follow the Sayville Middle School’s efforts in making a difference in the lives of others, please visit the official Frost Valley website at www.sayville.k12.ny.us/frostvalley