Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings people together. At The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, the Thanksgiving Program is a long-standing tradition that is cherished by students, alumni, faculty, staff, and parents.
The program, led by faculty members Dina Mathews and Jaime Surdynski, evokes a somber expression of gratitude. ACS students gather donations of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide to people in need. “During the program, our focus is placed on our offerings rather than the students. Imagine an enormous living tableau, a cornucopia of food of every color, blossoming on stage, surrounded by children singing songs of gratitude," explains Mathews and Surdynski. "Our alums continue these traditions because it's been firmly cemented into their way of thinking. Giving back is what makes Thanksgiving such a joyous celebration."
The program is entwined into the curriculum; students depict the meaning of the season through artwork as well as discuss our service to the community during an all-school Gathering and individual homerooms. Older students and alums help with organizing donations and packing boxes for delivery to the Salvation Army. "Students create inspirational art that adorns the hallways, and they share their many musical gifts. The final song is always ‘For the Beauty of the Earth,’ which allows every student to sing together as one body," explained Surdynski who directs the musical element of the program.
This is the 88th year that ACS has hosted their Thanksgiving Program. "Along with the produce we provide, we offer frozen turkeys to families in need," explained Surdynski. "The students also write letters to the families who spend their Thanksgiving dinner with the Salvation Army."
"The ACS Thanksgiving Program teaches our students to celebrate their uniqueness, and to cooperate as a team," said Surdynski. "We realize how truly blessed we are; we have an incredible school with great people, enough food to feed our families as well as others', a phenomenal learning atmosphere that challenges each of us in our own ways, and an opportunity to give back."
The Avery Coonley School
1400 Maple Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515