York organization receives WIC grant of more than $500k

The Community Progress Council of York announced Friday it is one of 36 organizations nationwide, and the only one in Pennsylvania, to receive a WIC CIAO grant.

The grant amount is $550,000 and is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service.

The grant’s purpose is to support efforts to develop, implement, and evaluate outreach strategies to increase awareness, participation, and benefit redemptions in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and reduce disparities in program delivery.

“With the WIC CIAO grant, we have an incredible opportunity to identify new ways to connect families with young children to nutrition support and other resources available through WIC and through Community Progress Council,” Robin Rohrbaugh, president/CEO, Community Progress Council, said in a statement.

“We are excited to share our plans to hire WIC Community Outreach Navigator positions, dedicated to promoting WIC throughout York County, in various languages and locations.”

CPC’s project, along with the new Navigator roles, will utilize a mobile outreach vehicle unit to expand partnerships with Head Start, grocery stores, food pantries and other organizations within the maternal and child health sector to meet people where they are and connect them to comprehensive, integrated services.

CPC’s project supports the organization’s mission to empower individuals and families to make progress in education, income, employment, housing, and other goals to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency.

“We look forward to celebrating this achievement with representatives from our community and to thank the USDA and other WIC CIAO funders,” Rohrbaugh said.

Mechanicsburg new home for pediatric and adolescent healthcare business

Early Bird Therapy LLC, and Growing in Motion LLC, are expanding into Mechanicsburg. 

The related companies offer comprehensive therapeutic services tailored to unique needs for children aged 0-3 and 3 and up. Services include pediatric and adolescent occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. 

The new location will be situated at 2104 Aspen Dr. in Mechanicsburg. Expansion allows the companies to extend needed support to an increased number of children and families. 

The expansion project is scheduled to begin immediately and is expected to be completed in August. The facility in Mechanicsburg will feature state-of-the-art equipment and an environment designed to enhance the therapeutic experience for children and their families. 

Expansion has been made possible by a 15-year, $409,000 loan by PIDA. The loan was announced by the Capital Region Economic Development Corporation (CREDC). 

“As a mother, I know firsthand the importance of quality pediatric therapy services,” Anita Weikel, CREDC Economic Development Lending Officer said in a statement. “Early Bird Learning and Growing in Motion’s expansion means more families will have access to the care and support they need to help their children thrive. CREDC is thrilled to see this center grow and continue to make an impact in our community.” 

Serving as a partnering lender is Orrstown Bank, which is providing $409,000 in a senior collateral position.

Stronger Youth Brands acquires global youth soccer franchiser

Harrisburg-based Stronger Youth Brands, a youth sports and enrichment platform, has acquired Little Kickers, an international franchiser of youth soccer programs headquartered in the United Kingdom, for an undisclosed price.

Established in 2002, Little Kickers operates in 340 territories across the UK, Canada, Australia and other countries. This acquisition creates the largest global franchised youth soccer platform, with over 400 franchisees and 600 territories across 30 countries. Little Kickers will continue to operate as a standalone brand and gain access to additional resources as part of Stronger Youth Brands.

Backed by Susquehanna Private Capital, a middle market private equity firm, Stronger Youth Brands was launched in January with SPC’s platform investment in youth soccer franchiser Soccer Shots.

Stronger Youth Brands pursues partnerships with youth enrichment franchisers focused on such areas as sports, music, STEM, tutoring, arts and cooking.

Soccer Shots’ CEO, Justin Bredeman, said in a release, “We are thrilled to welcome Little Kickers into our growing family of leading youth enrichment franchisers. … The Little Kickers team (has) built an outstanding, loyal franchise system with a primary focus on creating a healthy growth experience for every child through sports, fun and developmentally appropriate curriculum. We look forward to leveraging their scale and expertise as we continue to expand Stronger Youth Brands.”

Christine Kelly, Little Kickers’ founder and chairman, added: “We are pleased to join Stronger Youth Brands, whose impressive growth in franchised sports programs and devotion to youth enrichment are powerful complements to Little Kickers. We have known the Soccer Shots team for years and share a common ethos. We are confident that Little Kickers will continue to thrive and further its legacy as part of the platform.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Kiddie Academy to open at Susquehanna Union Green

Harrisburg-based developer Vartan Group Inc. revealed plans for a new educational child care center at Susquehanna Union Green at a groundbreaking Oct. 31.

Scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2023, Kiddie Academy of Harrisburg is the latest piece of the master-planned development in Susquehanna Township.

The 10,000-square-foot educational child care center will also feature extensive outdoor play areas. Mowery Construction is the design-build contractor.

Kiddie Academy of Harrisburg will serve 150 children from infants to 5 years.

“We’re excited to bring Kiddie Academy’s engaging, safe and fun learning environment that focuses on a child’s all-round development and provide high-quality early childhood learning to serve the Susquehanna Township community,” co-owner Deepak Sharma said in a release. “We are dedicated to creating an environment that feels like an extension of family where we foster trust, friendship and community between our educators, caregivers, parents and children.”

H. Ralph Vartan, CEO of the Vartan Group, added: “Susquehanna Township is gaining a major community asset in this new educational child care center. It is an honor to partner with Kiddie Academy of Harrisburg and work together to bring this vision to life.”

Based in Abingdon, Maryland, Kiddie Academy domestic franchising has more than 300 academies in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The company offers full-time care, before-and after-school care and summer camp programs.

Susquehanna Union Green is a traditional neighborhood development with restaurants and shops, offices, single-family homes, apartments, senior living, public parks and green space.

The first phase opened in 2021. More shops, businesses, homes and outdoor amenities are slated to debut in 2022 and 2023.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Goddard School moves to expanded location in Enola

The Goddard School of Enola will cut the ribbon Nov. 1 on its new, 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art location at 4800 Woodland Drive, Hampden Township.

A release said the school is the largest child care center in central Pennsylvania and the largest Goddard School on the East Coast. Its previous, much smaller location was at 4955 Woodland Drive.

Part of an early childhood education franchise, the Goddard School has been part of the Enola community since 2000. It serves local families and is enrolling children from 6 weeks to 6 years at its new home, including those interested in its state-certified, private kindergarten program.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will feature tours of the school, which includes a multi-purpose room with a basketball court; a drama stage; three large outdoor playgrounds, a student-maintained fruit and vegetable garden to support agricultural education; and a 24-hour employee fitness center.

The Goddard School serves more than 75,000 students in nearly 600 Goddard Schools in 37 states and Washington, D.C.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Celebrating ‘Back to School’

There are some days of the year that are just more special than others. My favorite day is right around the corner. I absolutely love the first day of school!

On the first day of school my neighborhood chimes with laughter, sighs of annoyance, and pleas of parents to, “Let me have one picture with you smiling” or “Can you please take a picture with your little sister?” Children are excited to see friends from school, to meet their new teachers, and a few are nervous to board the bus by themselves. There are tears from some younger siblings wondering why they can’t go too, and occasionally a tear will escape from a parents’ eye as their youngest heads to school for the first time.

I miss the days when The Boy did not want to let go of my hand as he headed into his classroom or when he would look over his shoulder for one more wave goodbye. He used to wait patiently while I took pictures, then he got to the age where he proclaimed, “You only get one picture, Mom!” Now The Boy only looks over his shoulder to see if he has escaped the annual early morning back-to-school photo.

The Boy and I played a fun game for a few years where he made it very difficult for me to take the “First Day of School” picture. It started in fifth grade when he rushed out of the house before I could walk him to the bus stop. I was completely caught by surprise, and only managed to get one shot of him running to meet his friends on the corner. By sixth grade I was better prepared and captured one picture of him looking over his shoulder with a sly smile. In 2020, we paused our game, since neither of us had anywhere to go. Our house was his school and my office.

After a year of social distancing, the beginning of the 2021 school year was truly special. He was excited and nervous to go back into a school building and see his classmates after nearly 16 months. The Boy actually allowed me to take “Back to School” pictures. He even volunteered to take a selfie with me (before becoming a surly teenager again!)

As the students waited together at the bus stop, several parents gathered to chat and wait for their children to board the bus. We all cheered when the bus arrived and captured pictures as the children boarded. We waved while the kids sunk deep into their seats with embarrassment.

Last year, I met friends for breakfast to celebrate the first day of school. We shared pictures and stories about the first-day early-morning rush. We laughed, expressed our concerns about the risks of our kids being exposed to Covid, and also shared relief that they were back in a classroom.

This year, my friends and I are planning to celebrate the first day of school! We will meet for breakfast and recount the details of our mornings. Instead of heading to work or home offices, we plan to enjoy the Lazy River at Hershey Park and our favorite rides.

Even though I expect a day of fun at the amusement park, I will be home to greet The Boy when he gets off of the bus. I am looking forward to hearing the sounds of students walking home and filling the neighborhood with shouts and laughter. Most of all I cannot wait to hear about The Boy’s first day of high school!

Catherine Hershey Schools hires director for its first early childhood center

Annie Papero, Director of CHS Hershey

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning has appointed Annie Papero as director of CHS Hershey, the schools’ first early childhood resource center.

As part of a $350 million initiative to initially develop six cost-free centers in the state, CHS Hershey will serve children from birth to age 5 from economically disadvantaged and at-risk backgrounds. The centers, subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School that will be staffed and operated independently, will provide their program cost free.

Papero was most recently head of lower school and preschool at the Sayre School in Lexington, Kentucky. She has also been an assistant professor in the early childhood education
departments at Shippensburg University and James Madison University and director of the Lucy Brock Child Development Lab Program at Appalachian State.

“I cannot think of anyone better to welcome and partner with the children and families of CHS Hershey, and am confident that, through Annie’s leadership, CHS will create brighter futures for
everyone in the community,” Senate Alexander, executive director of Catherine Hershey Schools, said in a release.

Papero added: “Quality early education can transform lives, and I look forward to working with CHS Hershey children and their families to reach that goal.”

CHS Hershey is under construction with an expected opening next year. On the Milton Hershey School campus, the two-story 50,827 square foot building will feature classrooms, indoor and
outdoor play areas, a STEM garden, innovation studio, and a dedicated family resource center.

The curriculum for the nonresidential, year-round core learning program will focus on educational, social and emotional development and healthy habits; children will be provided nutritious meals, transportation and needed supplies.

Catherine Hershey Schools is hiring for a number of positions, including teachers, family engagement specialists and operations staff.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Four Diamonds’ executive director Suzanne Graney talks legacy, philanthropy and growth 

Penn State students announce the final tally for THON 2022. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Penn State’s annual IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, commonly referred to as THON, broke its fundraising record this year by raising a total of $13.7 million in time for the student-run charity’s 50th anniversary. 

The iconic fundraiser, founded in 1973, is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and since its founding, THON has raised over $200 million for Hershey-based nonprofit Four Diamonds. 

Through THON, Penn State students raise money during a year-long effort that culminates in a 46-hour, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon. It is one of three programs that Four Diamonds relies on to support children and their families in the fight against childhood cancer through care, support and research. 

In the last decade, Four Diamonds has grown exponentially by expanding its administration, updating how it communicates with students, finding ways to keep students invested in giving after they graduate and more. 

That growth has resulted in the nonprofit bringing in 75% of its total fundraised money in the past 12 years—something that can be partially attributed to the leadership of Suzanne Graney, Four Diamond’s executive director since 2010. 

Graney joined Four Diamonds with an established background in communications and marketing from a previous role as director of development and marketing at Harrisburg-based WITF. However, it was Graney’s experience as a volunteer in a youth leadership program that drew her to a position at Four Diamonds. 

As a volunteer, Graney worked with young people to help them recognize and grasp their full potential, something that she does today with the student leader of THON. 

“To get to see that spark of learning and growth through their time with Four Diamonds—whether it is through THON, Mini-THON or other opportunities, it’s rewarding to see how they are awakened to their skills,” said Graney. 

Through THON, students learn best practices in fundraising, social media and digital fundraising along with lessons in leadership and teamwork—fostering future philanthropists. 

Suzanne Graney. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Leading Four Diamonds 

Leading an organization like Four Diamonds takes what Graney calls a combination of heart and smart. 

“You can have a lot of heart and care and it is important to be rooted in the mission to truly care about the individuals who are making this work happen,” she said. “On the flip side, you have to approach it from a place of smart business principles. You have to have return on investment, and you have to manage the financial pieces of this well.” 

Under Graney’s leadership, Four Diamonds has grown from three to 17 full-time staff members. Those staff changes have included the addition of a team dedicated to Mini-THON, a similar year-long fundraising effort modeled after THON but focused on K-12 students. 

Another area of growth for the nonprofit has been how it communicates with the public, according to Graney. Four Diamonds has grown its social media presence, recognizing that it needs to meet students and donors at their preferred websites. 

“We knew that Penn State University students were heavily on Twitter. We had to grow on Twitter as a response,” said Graney. “We know that our donors were on Facebook. So, we needed our stories on Facebook.” 

In the spirit of meeting its community where it is, Four Diamonds announced a new program to stand beside THON and Mini-THON in July, called Play For The Kids. 

Through Play For The Kids, Four Diamonds supporters can raise money by hosting a variety of events such as food eating contests or fitness challenges, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. 

Graney said she sees the new program as a way to keep students and families invested in the THON and Mini-Thon mindset even after graduating college or high school. 

“It is about bringing people together. Being part of a larger movement all focused on funding studies for childhood cancer,” she said. “It is an expansion of what we are doing and an opportunity for anyone at any age to be part of the solution.” 

Penn State students take a selfie with the Nittany Lion at THON 2022. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Looking back and forward 

Along with breaking THON’s record annual donations, 2022 THON acted as a celebration of 50 years of THON. 

It was also Four Diamonds’ first year without its co-founder, Charles Millard, who died in late 2021 at the age of 93. 

Millard co-founded Four Diamonds with his wife, Irma, after the loss of their son Christopher to cancer in 1972. Four Diamonds became the beneficiary of Penn State’s THON in 1977 after Millard made a connection with a student involved in the organization. 

During his time with Four Diamonds, a common phrase of Millard’s was: “Maybe Einstein was right and we are all energy and that energy never dies, it just takes another form.” 

The energy of THON’s hours long dance party is hard to describe, according to Graney, who said she kept thinking of that quote during the weekend. 

“It’s filled with hope, positivity and goodwill,” she said. “You feel that the minute you enter that building and you feel it the entire time.” 

The anniversary was also an opportunity to look forward for Four Diamonds.  

Last November Penn State Health named Dr. Yatin Vyas as chair of its Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Miracle Network and Four Diamonds Endowed Chair and pediatrician-in-chief at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine. 

In this new role, one of Vyas’ first steps will be to put together a new strategic plan for pediatric oncology and hematology. Graney said that this new strategic plan is an opportunity for the hospital and its researchers to tell Four Diamonds what it needs from them. 

“Once we know what that direction is, we will get to work and do everything we can to provide them with what they need to care for kids as best they can in the most modern, up to date and leading edge ways possible,” she said. 


Catherine Hershey Schools breaks ground on first resource center

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning recently broke ground on the new program’s first Early Childhood Resource Center scheduled to be completed in 2023. 

CHS, a subsidiary of Milton Hershey School (MHS) has begun work on a two-story, 50,827-square-foot resource center on the MHS campus.  

When complete, CHS Hershey will provide an early learning program for 150 students from birth to age 5 from economically disadvantaged and at-risk homes. CHS expects to have 80 employees and volunteers work at the Hershey location. 

“Today marks a significant milestone as we build on Catherine and Milton Hershey’s legacy,” said Senate Alexander, executive director of CHS. “Their vision continues to be our guide as we look to help many more children and families in need at CHS Hershey and future locations.” 

CHS Hershey is expected to begin the student admissions process next fall with a focus on serving children and families in Hershey and the surrounding area. It is currently looking to hire a director for the resource center with other school-level positions coming soon. 

The facility is one of six planned for the region, with the second announced for Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood. 

I’m a COVID-cautious mom, so why am I flying with a child?

I’m flying with a kid, and I’m kind of nervous about it. We are heading off to sunny California this fall to visit my in-laws, and I am freaking out. A little. Not a lot, but definitely a little. 

Let me tell you about my experience being a COVID parent – which I have found to be vastly different from other parents. 

I stay at home to run my business. I am my own boss, so I make the rules. The number one rule has always been: work from home. It’s been this way for seven years, and I love it. 

When the stay-at-home orders happened in March 2020, I thought, “Dang, this is going to be eeeeaaaassssy.” Even though most people would suggest that I am a social butterfly, I have always loved my at-home-alone time, too.  

Well, after a few weeks of holing up, I realized I didn’t love it that much.  

My husband has an auto-immune disorder. It’s not something I talk about in regular life very often, and it’s something I almost never mention to clients. I don’t know why. I know that we are people, like everyone else, and we have difficulties. Even still, I never wanted to be seen in a different light or look to be making excuses. We struggle sometimes, but we always get through.  

Anyway, because of his C- immune system, we made the choice as a family to be extra cautious. You can ask all my friends, and they will tell you honestly: we were sometimes incredibly obnoxious about it. “You guys went to an indoor gathering? Okay, we will see you and your kiddo in a few weeks.” It was what it was. No one got mad or had hurt feelings, and we would see each other again down the road. 

I have seen no evidence of this ruining Coraline’s social abilities. She smiles and waves at everyone on our evening walks. She talks to our neighbor, Mr. Frank, about the flowers. She talks with our other neighbors, Bill and Jill, about the frogs and the fish in our pond. Coraline seems to be a perfectly well-adjusted kid. (We, of course, will find out as she gets older.) 

You know the wildest thing, to me? There is so much divisiveness that I see online, but there is NO divisiveness within my personal community. Maybe that’s because I have surrounded myself with caring, loving genuine people. Maybe that’s because my friends and family are able to put themselves in other people’s shoes.  

Whatever the reason, I feel very lucky to have the people that I do in my life. No judgement, no guilt, and no unnecessary stress. We all have navigated this last year and a half differently, and we all have continued loving each other and have remained respectful of each other’s choices.  

Well, now we are flying, and after a year and a half of being a recluse, I’m starting to become a little anxious about it. Kevin (AKA “the Smart One”) has told me in all the ways that flying is safer than I would have thought. He’s educated me about air circulation. He’s explained the virus in ways that my tiny (but efficient) brain can comprehend. Even still, I can’t shake this feeling.  

I think the only way through it is to do it. Pack our bags and leave on that jet plane, so to speak. Interestingly enough, I am not even remotely worried about traveling with a toddler. Then again, I’ll just make Kevin carry the car seat.  

Pigs in the Park

Ephrata National Bank is hosting its second annual Pigs in the Park event for children.

Piggy banks will be hidden at seven parks in Lancaster, Lebanon and Chester counties over four Saturdays. Children 2-12 who find one can take it to any Ephrata National Bank branch to receive a $25 deposit into a new or existing Super Saver savings account.

Below is the schedule; all events are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or while supplies last.

  • Aug. 7, Thomas P. Grater Community Park, Cocalico Street off of South Oak Street, Ephrata.
  • Aug. 14, West Nantmeal Park, 455 N. Manor Road, Elverson; New Holland Park, 400-498 E. Jackson St., New Holland.
  • Aug. 21, Denver Memorial Park, 801 Main St., Denver; Strasburg Community Park, 151 Precision Ave., Strasburg.
  • Aug. 28, Lititz Springs Park, 24 N. Broad St., Lititz; Myerstown Community Park, 541-585 S. College St., Myerstown.