From the touching smile of a child, to the tippity-tap of a talented clogger and a whole host of entertainers, Orlando Florida South Stake's "Cherish the Children" program was chock-full of special moments.
As the second series of recent public affairs-sponsored efforts to strengthen families, "Cherish the Children" encompassed a week of activities, all of which were designed to focus the community's attention on the importance of children.Activities during the week included special family home evening programs throughout the stake, a focus on home and visiting teaching, a teacher appreciation night, a Relief Society homemaking/social, a talent showcase and family-of-the-year presentation, leadership training, a youth service project, a family fun day, and special "Cherish the Children" emphasis in sacrament meetings.
The week was launched with members inviting friends into their homes to share in traditional family home evening programs. The next evening, the focus was home and visiting teaching efforts, with the goal of having all assignments completed within the week. Home and visiting teachers were encouraged to include in their visits a message pertaining to "Cherish the Children."
The next night stake youth recognized and honored school teachers. Organized by Pat Ursic, stake public affairs media specialist, the event included the invitation to nearly 100 teachers from two counties to participate in a recognition ceremony and program. At the end of the evening, a reception was held as students introduced their teachers to family, friends and leaders.
A reception and homemaking event was held the next night, featuring a keynote address by Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president. Organized by stake Relief Society Pres. Patricia Cox and her committee, the evening also included musical performances by both an LDS quartet and a non-LDS elementary school vocal group. In addition, Relief Society sisters and their friends had the opportunity of attending classes relating to the "Cherish the Children" theme.
For the "Cherish the Children" talent showcase and family-of-the-year presentation, chairwoman Paula Ita focused on ways to involve the community. Through her personal contacts and those of other members, she involved a majority of non-LDS organizations, including a junior high school performing bell choir, a high school jazz ensemble, authentic Talako Indian dancers, a clogger, a Polynesian children's band and dance group with a fire performer, pianists, soloists, a vocal quintet and more.
A finale featuring a professional mime involved a combined stake Primary choir on stage and drew strong applause. Recognized during the evening was special guest Pres. Grassli.
An important element of the evening was the naming of a "family of the year." The public affairs committee responsible for this event determined that only non-LDS could receive the recognition, which required an official nomination. The David King family of Winter Garden, Fla., was named the family of the year. The family includes David and Brenda and their children, ranging in age from 6 to 14. The family received an engraved plaque, a year-round family pass to a local attraction, and lots of admiration.
Saturday morning was full for both Primary leaders and stake youth. A regional Primary leadership session was hosted by the Orlando Florida South Stake and included Primary leaders from Orlando, Tampa, Lake Mary and Cocoa stakes. Pres. Grassli led a two-hour training event that was also attended by regional representative, Elder Alvie Evans.
While the Primary leadership training was under way, approximately 150 young men and women from Orlando South stake enjoyed their own version of "Cherish the Children" with a service project. Youth leaders from the stake and wards organized a morning of games and activities for LDS youth and displaced children.
In the afternoon, about 1,500 members and their friends enjoyed "water mania" at a popular water park in Kissimmee, Fla. The highlight of that event was a concert by the LDS group Afterglow performed on stage while the audience swam, dipped toes in the wave pool, relaxed in tubes in the water or simply stretched out on lounge chairs.
The jam-packed week of activities gave way to a spiritual Sabbath as every ward in the stake hosted a special sacrament meeting. Speakers and special music had been assigned to focus on the theme, creating a perfect ending to this memorable event. Pres. Grassli attended two ward Primary meetings, bringing her warmth and enthusiasm to children who will cherish her special, personal message.
"It took a concentrated effort on behalf of our entire stake leadership to make this happen," explained Rod Cookson, second counselor in the Orlando South Stake presidency, who oversees the public affairs efforts. "A lot of planning and prayer went into it.