Photo by Lucy Schaly
Side note: This one was a fun day at the office.
By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times
BADEN — Fourth-graders at State Street Elementary School in Baden expected a Just Ducky tour as a year-end trip, but found themselves among Penguins instead.
Each year, the school’s fourth-grade class is rewarded at the end of the year with field trip to Pittsburgh for the Just Ducky land and water tour. But with the Penguins’ Stanley Cup-clinching win on Sunday, the company canceled the tour because of the closing of city streets and its participation in the parade.
Jan Rusnak, a fourth-grade teacher at State Street, has planned the trip for the last six years, and with the last day of school on Thursday, she acted quickly to find an alternative. Monday night, Rusnack sent an email to Penguins representatives and explained the situation. She also posted to Facebook to alert parents of the cancellation.
“I had a lot of parent support after I made a Facebook post,” Rusnak said.
State Street Principal Tom McKelvey said parents and other people used Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the Penguins, Mayor Bill Peduto and 96.1 Kiss FM to try to find a solution to the cancellation.
Tom McMillan, the vice president of communication for the Penguins, said he replied to Rusnak’s email Monday night and on Tuesday extended an invitation for the 41 pupils to watch the parade from a VIP section close to the stage.
“We had a meeting Tuesday about the parade, and it was one of the first things to come up,” McMillan said. “As kids, we all looked forward to field trips. It was satisfying to turn a big disappointment into something we hope was exciting for them.”
Pupils left the school around 9 a.m., all wearing matching gold Stanley Cup T-shirts funded by the school’s parent-teacher association. Many of those shirts would return with signatures on them from the likes of Jake Guentzal, Brian Dumoulin and other players. R.J. Rhodes Transit Inc. donated two buses to take the children to the parade and back, McKelvey said.
Despite the heat and crowd noise, the pupils enjoyed watching the parade and seeing the Penguins players and Stanley Cup from so close to the stage.
“It’s like something you’d think you would never see,” fourth-grader Kaia Fubio said.
Many of the pupils expressed their appreciation for the opportunity.
“It was unbelievable to meet so many Penguin players,” Julien Hubbard said. “It was so kind of them to let us be VIPs.”
“I’m grateful that we got to go because if we didn’t go, we didn’t have a field trip,” Lucas Hopkins said.
“It was extraordinary, and I’m very thankful for the Pens letting us be in the VIP section,” Zhekiyah Reddicks said.
Rusnak said the field trip was “such a neat experience for the students and adults.”
The pupils returned from the closing event of the Penguins’ season shortly after 2 p.m., ready for dismissal from their last full day of fourth grade.
“Everybody worked together in a collaborative effort to not only give the kids something they wanted the first time around, but something that exceeded their expectations,” McKelvey said.