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Friday, December 6, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Young essayists put favorite elders on a pedestal

Abby Klossner’s essay about her grandfather Mike Roth was a winner in the annual SAFE contest. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Abby Klossner’s essay about her grandfather Mike Roth was a winner in the annual SAFE contest. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

One grandpa runs nearly every day. Another grandpa gardens – growing tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins to carve at Halloween. Then there is the neighbor woman who helps in an emergency and shows youngsters age has nothing to do with enjoying life and staying active.

Students from across Eastern Washington recently wrote essays about elders they know who “Blaze a Trail,” a theme that gave youngsters a way to honor – and brag a little – about the special older people in their lives.

The Senior Assistance Fund of Eastern Washington sponsors the annual essay contest for students ages 6 to 12 in the five local counties. The goal is to challenge children’s perception about aging and helps celebrate Older Americans Month in May.

The winning essay by Abby Klossner, 10, of Jefferson Elementary outlines a variety of activities she does with her grandfather and praises his active lifestyle. One of the best summer activities is when grandparents Mike and Susie Roth have “Camp Groppa” (that’s Grammie and Boppa mashed together) for all the grandchildren.

“She and my dad have a really special bond,” said Abby’s mom, Amy. “They have a great time together. They love to joke around.”

After all, Boppa (Mike Roth) is a retired elementary and middle school teacher.

Third-place winner Julianna Lecou, a second-grader at Stevens Elementary, wrote about growing tomatoes – “red, ripe, juicy,” and which taste so much better than those from the store – with her grandfather, who then cooks “delicious dinners for me and my little brother.”

“I spend a lot of time gardening with Grampy even when there is other things I could be doing,” Julianna wrote.

The second place winner is a fourth-grader at Arlington Elementary. The student’s parents didn’t return phone calls for permission to release her name. The student praised her neighbor for helping when her brother had an allergic reaction to a bee. The student wrote of the neighbor’s kindness, caring and active lifestyle, from yoga to evening walks with her husband.

“She teaches me that you don’t have to stop doing fun and active things even when you’re older,” the student wrote in the essay.

Abby will receive four tickets to Silverwood Theme Park. The second-place winner gets four movie tickets. Julianna won a $25 gift certificate to Lowes for plants and gardening supplies.

This year fewer students participated but the handful of entries told the stories of active and fun elders.

Lynn Kimball, the director of Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington who helped judge the essays, said she hopes more teachers embrace the contest next year.

“I’d encourage (teachers) to participate since it’s so important to find ways to highlight intergenerational relationships,” Kimball said. “By highlighting the important role older adults play in their lives, we can help foster positive perceptions of aging from a young age.”

Joyce McNamee of SAFE said this year the board judged the entries.

“We do this to celebrate national Older Americans month, to celebrate generational love, caring and respect,” McNamee said.

The SAFE winning essay by Abby Klossner:

How many 68-year-old grandpas do you know that run four to five days a week? Well, my grandpa does. He and my Grammie are very active.

Every Sunday evening they go on a walk together around their neighborhood.

My Boppa also runs a station at my schools Play-Day at the end of the school year. Those are only a few ways he is active, though. He also likes to wrestle with me, my sister and two brothers. He takes us to the park and plays outside with us. He chases us and has fun with us. Somedays we go on bike rides with them around our neighborhood and on cool trails. He and my Grammie do a “camp” at their house for me, my siblings, and my cousins every summer. It is called “Camp Groppa” which stands for Grammie and Boppa.

My Boppa builds a lot of things including a train table that he keeps his train on, stools, and birdhouses. Last year he even repainted the whole outside of their house all by himself. Grammie and Boppa garden a lot in their garden.

They have a pool that Boppa takes care of and I help him. He swims in the pool with us and dreams of building a slide from the window of the house to the pool.

I chose to write about my Boppa because he is active to stay healthy.

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