Guest Blogger: Brock

An Experience of Many “Firsts”

Early last Friday, November 16, two of our middle school boys, Elliot (8th Grade) and Jay (7th Grade), along with Fr. Steve, Adria (Social Strategist), and myself, Brock (5th Grade teacher and chaperone for the boys) boarded a plane for Minneapolis/St. Paul where we would then board our connecting flight to New York City.

This was the start of many “firsts” for the boys, as they had never flown before.  Thankfully, we had smooth sailing, giving the boys a positive flying experience.

We landed as scheduled in New York City and the adventures began!  We were not able to get a taxi for all five of us so we split up and took separate taxis to the hotel.  This was also the boy’s first taxi ride.  The boys and I were in one and Fr. Steve and Adria were in the other.

We grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (another first) outside our hotel!
We grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (another first) outside our hotel!

After arriving at the hotel, we unloaded our luggage into one of our rooms on the 26th floor and headed out to see the city.  This was also the first time the boys had been so high up in a building.  We grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (another first) outside our hotel and headed for the subway to Times Square.

From this point forward, the boys were able to experience numerous other “firsts” ranging from tasting new foods to seeing all of the sights of New York City throughout the remainder of the three days in New York.

After the subway ride to Times Square, Fr. Steve led us to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, where we purchased our City Sights New York City bus tour tickets.

We proceeded with the Uptown Tour, seeing a variety of sights for much of the afternoon, including Time Square South, the Theatre District North, Columbus Circle/Time Warner Center, Lincoln Center, Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History/New York Historical Society, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Church, the Apollo Theatre, Harlem, the Museum of the City of New York, the Guggenheim & Jewish Museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Central Park Zoo to name a few.

Elliot and Jay's first subway ride!
Elliot and Jay’s first subway ride!

We exited our bus to walk around Central Park for a few minutes and took several pictures.  We also were on parts of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route throughout the tour, and saw preparations for the parade.  This made us more interested in watching the parade this year, having just recently been on part of it.

We then returned to the bus tour and started part of the Downtown Tour of New York.  We were able to see many more magnificent sights!

Some of them were The Empire State Building, Macy’s, the Flatiron District, Union Square, SoHo, China Town and the World Trade Center.

Quick stop in Central Park for several pictures!
Quick stop in Central Park for several pictures!

We exited the tour again at the World Trade Center stop and went to meet up with the rest of our group who had arrived a day earlier.  We settled into our rooms and met up for a wonderful Oriental supper not far from our hotel.

After supper, we went back to Times Square to take in more of the New York City experience.  We walked through St. Patrick Cathedral and walked by Rockefeller Center, taking a group shot in front of the still-being-decorated Christmas tree.

We continued our foot tour walking by Radio City Music Hall, eventually returning to Times Square.  We then boarded our City Sights tour bus for more as we drove by Madison Square Garden and saw the lit up Empire State Building on our way back to our hotel.  We exited the tour to return to our hotel rooms for some much-needed rest.

On Saturday morning, we embarked on a short tour of Battery Park seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from a distance. After pictures with Lady Liberty in the background, we continued to tour the Financial District, seeing the “Bull” on Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.

A quick group shot in front of the still-being-decorated Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center!
A quick group shot in front of the still-being-decorated Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center!

We returned to the hotel to freshen up for one of the main reasons for the trip: to meet with our donors and thank them for their generous contributions to St. Joseph’s Indian School!  The boys graciously took pictures with all the donors attending and, although admittedly nervous, gave their individual accounts of life at St. Joseph’s Indian School.  They both did a fine job and represented St. Joseph’s Indian School well.

After the donor appreciation luncheon, we ventured out again to see more of the city, getting the most out of our City Sights Tour tickets.  We boarded a bus in Battery Park and continued with the Downtown Tour seeing the skyline of Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge, South Street Seaport and Pier 17 before heading by China Town, the Ladies Mile, the United Nations and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, to name a few.

We again departed the bus tour at Times Square and attended Mass at St. Malachy Roman Catholic Church before going to eat supper at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, home of the world-famous singing wait staff.   After supper, we continued to walk around Times Square taking numerous pictures to show friends back home.  A “short” subway ride back toward our hotel ended the day, retiring for the night to rest up for another day.

Elliot and Jay with Lady Liberty.
Elliot and Jay with Lady Liberty.

On Sunday, the second of our main reasons for being in New York took place.  We had another donor appreciation luncheon in Melville Long Island.  The boys again graciously took pictures with all the donors attending and were still admittedly nervous speaking in front of the group; but were able to represent St. Joseph’s Indian School in a positive manner as they answered questions from the audience about their experiences here at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

With both donor appreciation lunches completed, we had one more night to explore the Big Apple.  We did some shopping in the SoHo area before heading one last time to Times Square where we ate at John’s Pizzeria. After supper, we took in more of the sights and sounds Times Square had to offer before entering the subway to venture back toward our hotel.  After a couple “extra” subway rides, we were back to our hotel to pack for our return flight to South Dakota to see our family and friends waiting for us back at home.

Everyone loved John’s Pizzeria!
Everyone loved John’s Pizzeria!

Although it was an awesome experience of many “firsts” for several involved, no one hesitated to state that they would be interested in making many other “firsts” and a few “seconds” experiences in the future.

Truly grateful

We just returned from donor luncheons in New York, one in lower Manhattan and one in Melville Long Island. We could see first hand some of the chaos caused by Superstorm Sandy. The area near Battery Park and The World Trade Center memorial site were crawling with utility trucks, demolition and clean up crews, mostly wearing haz-mat suits. When I asked a crew of hard hats staying at our hotel what they were working on, they told me their company specializes in saving and preserving paper. I hadn’t thought about all the valuable and historical books and papers and documents must be in danger from the storm surge. On the way to Long Island we noticed how many trees had been uprooted and fallen.

At the luncheons, all of our donors had stories about being without power, or having family and friends who had suffered terrible damage. Many people were home bound because they couldn’t get gasoline for their vehicles. One family bought a generator after last year’s Hurricane Irene, but after a few days they ran out of gasoline to power it and couldn’t get any more.

Amid the destruction and tragedy, there have been so many kind and generous people reaching out with offers of help. While crisis can bring out the bad in people, many times it shows the goodness we are all capable of.

For eighth grader Elliot and seventh grader Jay, this was their first airplane flight. New York is so huge compared to what they know, and they were riveted on all the sights as we hopped on a tour bus to learn about the history and culture packed into a few square miles. Their cameras clicked away constantly as they discovered places they’d heard about or seen on TV or the movies. The most notable landmark for them was the Flatiron building, which they recognized from Spiderman.

We did a fair amount of walking. We stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to say a few prayers for folks back home. Art and statues and shrines also teach a lot about God and salvation history. With all the buildings, hustle and bustle, the large rocks in Central Park overlooking the pond provided a reflective view of the glory of nature.

Christine, one of our houseparents until she retired last year to be with her grandchildren, now lives on Long Island and brought her family to the luncheon there. She was able to share with the folks at her table the joys and challenges of raising a dozen 7 and 8 year olds in one household.

A joy for me at the luncheons is meeting folks who have been long time supporters of St. Joseph but haven’t had the opportunity to see the school, or meet any of our staff or students. With a group, the time always seems so short as my time is split between many people.

One evening Geri, our Director of Major Gift Services, arranged a meeting with a couple who has supported us for many years and couldn’t make the luncheons. Having a more in-depth conversation with a small group was even more satisfying. I was awed by the many other causes the couple supports around the world, with some tremendous networking to make a real difference in the lives of people in the Third World and in our own country. For all the negatives we can focus on in the world, Thanksgiving reminds us there are also so many people and things to be truly grateful for.