Long distance planning results in Wheeler Family Reunion success by Nancy Getz

We really liked the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, North Carolina. We rented four cottages (one held 16 people), all within five minutes of one another. The atmosphere and environment was very nice and the staff was good to work with. Cottage prices were very reasonable.

Hundreds of kids were kept busy with organized activities. It was so nice at night to hear them singing. Their routine and our activities never clashed. We had 14 kids between ages 10 and 19. Many activities were planned for them and they also enjoyed the swimming pool, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields. The Alpine Rope Tower was a highlight either for climbers or cheering climbers! Softballs and bats, soccer balls and a volleyball were all furnished.

Blue Ridge Assembly has a beautiful outdoor amphitheater where we held our “Lack of Talent Show.” Fireflies (lighting bugs) were still around to delight the kids!

Our family is scattered from Alaska to Florida and Hawaii to Pennsylvania! I live in Anchorage, Alaska. This reunion was for siblings of my mother and father, our spouses, children and their spouses, their children, and some of them have spouses and a child or two. A lot of relatives were meeting for the first time. Others hadn’t seen each other for at least 20 years.

I designed matching t-shirts and had them made at a shirt store in Illinois. We made name tags from a tree branch cut in slices, painted designs and our names on them and attached plastic lacing to hang them around our necks. Holes were pre-drilled.

We also had “mini-interest” groups. I recruited volunteers to share hobbies, talents or skills with the rest of us. At the beginning … my blind sister, Betty, and her new husband did a mini-session on “Living Skills for the Blind” which was very interesting to the whole family and made communicating easier. Later, I noticed one of the kids talking to her and to show her something, he nudged her hand with the object. He had just learned she can see with her hands! We had crafts, a knot tying group and a campfire lakeside one evening. Music and singing was spread throughout the week. A family member wrote The Wheeler Theme Song which we sang often to the tune of There’s Nothing Finer Than To Be In Carolina In The Morning!

I made evaluations on my laptop on the last day of the reunion for everyone to fill out! WOW! We learned so much for our next reunion. It was definitely a big hit and many said it was way beyond their expectations. Everyone wanted another reunion, for sure. Most of the kids wanted another one in one year for a month! I don’t think we sisters would last that long! Adults were about 50/50 wanting the next one in two or three years and again for one week.

About the author
Nancy Getz is married, retired and has lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for 22 years. She has three daughters and 11 grandchildren who live in Washington and Arizona. “Staying in touch with family is very important to me and I finally have “extra” time to contribute to organizing our family reunions, which I dearly enjoy and love!” she says.