Curtis Gilbert sat with his daughter, Nola, Thursday night in the middle of the School Age Center’s gym, waiting for the buffet line to open and the program to start.

From 150-200 children and their families were in attendance.

It was the first year for the Friends-giving event, according to Tameka Smith-Grant, the facility’s director.

She had asked parents to write down why they were thankful for their children.

“Everything that we do it comes back to the kids,” Smith-Grant said. “Right now, we are trying to do more parent involvement activities that cause the parent to interact with the child in a positive way.”

Gilbert was the first parent to volunteer to read his card aloud.

“I’m thankful for you because the Lord gave me you. Nola, you’ve been the greatest blessing in my life. You’re a constant reminder of how powerful kindness and love can be. You have a beautiful heart, and I’m thankful to be called your dad.”

Slowly parents started to make their way up to the podium.

They read things like:

“Before you were born, I dreamed of you. I imagined you. I prayed for you. I adore your smile. I cherish your hugs. I admire your heart. Now that you are here, most of all, I love that you are my son, and I thank God for you.”

And, “You make me smile every day. You are kind and loving and the best son I could ask for. Your heart is full of love, and you show kindness to others. I am thankful God blessed me to be your mom and watch you grow.”

As people continued to read their cards, more parents got involved, and a long line formed down the side of the gym.

They kept reading things like:

“You are so beautiful outside and inside. Mom and Dad are proud of you, my little kid.”

Gilbert said events like this and people who run the CDC are the reason he chose to enroll Nola in the childcare on post.

“It’s not just another daycare where your kids are just waiting for you to get off work,” he said. “They keep them engaged.”

Smith-Grant plans to continue working to make the daycare program exceed the parent’s expectations.

“This is going to be one of many events that we have that will continue to bring families, communities and friends together,” she said.

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