Church gives children a day out, parents a day off

Steve Awalt, a deacon and elder with the First Presbyterian Church of Clayton, helps 2-year-old Avery Savage make an ornament during "Parents Day Out" at the church. "It's a great experience for the kids," Awalt says.
Steve Awalt, a deacon and elder with the First Presbyterian Church of Clayton, helps 2-year-old Avery Savage make an ornament during "Parents Day Out" at the church. "It's a great experience for the kids," Awalt says. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 01, 2013

CLAYTON It was a parent's dream: a day to shop for Black Friday bargains without towing the young charges.

The First Presbyterian Church of Clayton opened its doors to nearly three dozen youngsters Friday for its annual "Parents Day Out." With schools were closed Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday, the event was also a day out for children.

While their parents hit the malls and stores, children ranging in ages from 3 to 18 spent six hours at the Gloucester County church on Delsea Drive, where they played games and made crafts in the fellowship hall and watched Finding Nemo movies in the sanctuary.

"It is fun here," said Emily Mathis, 11, of Clayton, who came with sister Abby, 8. "It's something to do on a day you're bored."

The event was the brainchild of Pastor Daniel Pure, who came up with the idea as a way to give parents time to shop without the curious eyes of their children or give them some free time to simply relax after the holiday.

"Why not use this day as a day of creativity and give parents a break after Thanksgiving?" said Pure. "We want the kids to have fun."

Parents began dropping their children off at the church at 10 a.m. Registration was $5. According to Pure and some children, some parents planned to hit the mall. Others had to work or go to doctor's appointments. The children attend the church or live in neighboring communities.

"I'm fine with it because I don't like shopping," said Zach Murray, 11, who came with brother Tyler, 9.

Andrea Loughlin, 17, a senior at Delsea Regional High School, and eight of her siblings spent the day at the church (only younger brother, George, stayed home). She was not sure how her parents planned to spend the day.

"They might be shopping for Christmas," she said, adding that she tries to avoid the malls, especially at this time of year.

Added sister Christine, 12: "They might need a break. There are 10 of us."

As it turns out, their father was working while their mother, Danielle, was getting some much-needed rest in a house so quiet "it felt like the Twilight Zone" after working an 11-hour shift Thursday night into Friday morning as a slot attendant at Harrah's Philadelphia in Chester.

"It's tough being a mom of 10," said Danielle Loughlin, 34. "It was nice to be able to come home and sleep. I was very, very grateful to the church."

The theme for the day was "beach fun," and children were invited to wear their favorite summer gear - although only one youngster donned shorts. The church is planning a Christmas in July Vacation Bible School next summer so it wanted to incorporate a beach theme for Black Friday.

"It's a great experience for the kids," said Steve Awalt, 54, a church elder and an accountant at Gloucester County College. "We have a blast, too."

The children rotated between stations in the fellowship hall, where church volunteers assisted with activities that included Christian education. The festivities also included lunch and snacks.

"It feels like another family when I come here," said Christine Loughlin, a seventh grader. "You can be yourself and not be judged."

The children also made holiday cards to send to military personnel. James Connell, 10, a fourth grader at Herma Simmons Elementary School, wrote a poem inside his card:

You serve our country

You want to see a sky of blue

When you come home

Your happiness will reach the moon

Hope you get there soon.


mburney@phillynews.com

856-779-3814 mlburney

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