The 18th annual Children’s Fair took place last week at Granby Elementary. The event was kicked off with a reading of a proclamation designating the next year to be a “Big Year for Little Kids.”

Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke delivered the message to a group of about 50 people, including parents, teachers, kids and community members. The Board of County Commissioners’ proclamation declared that April 2019 to April 2020 would be ‘a big year for little kids’. “We recognize the importance of our kids and the future they hold.” The proclamation acknowledged the critical role of early childhood programs like Grand Beginnings and thanked the families, teachers and professionals for their service and dedication. Linke said, ”I think having well-educated, productive people in our society makes everybody better”.

The Children’s Fair is part of Grand Beginnings’ 20th year celebration. The event brings kids, parents, teachers and community members together in a social environment filled with interactive booths for children. Nonprofit organizations and community members set up booths that created an engaging experience for the kids.

This year, kids solved puzzles, played games, experienced a model railroad, strummed musical instruments and even handled live worms. Jen Fanning, Director of the Rural Health Network, said, “This event is a social gathering that provides a safe place to experience new and different things. Stuff kids may not have seen in their journey”.  

In an interview with the Winter Park Times, Executive Director of Grand Beginnings, Meagan Lokteff, said, “Studies show that investing in our kids at a young age provides a foundation that  can lead to healthy and productive lives”. Our investment contributes to their overall wellbeing and success throughout life. “Healthy citizens help create stronger communities.” Early care and education leads to less school dropouts, crime and violence. Moreover, Lokteff said studies show early care and education initiatives support economic growth and prosperity. “Small investments now can pay huge dividends for our community in the future.”

Wendy Stefanski, Director of Winter Park Resort’s Early Education Center, said they have seen a 29% increase in enrollment. She added, “Many parents that do not work for the resort inquire about their program while looking for a good place for their children”.

More support is needed for families throughout Colorado. Currently, licensed care centers have the capacity for only 43 percent of Colorado’s young children, and 25% of parents experience financial hardships to get their children a high quality early education.

Grand Beginnings does much more than provide child care and early education. The organization also works to increase the number of children receiving health and dental screenings.

Lokteff said, “We are helping 70 to 80 percent of our children receive regular screenings”,  compared to the national average of 30 or 40 percent. “We are proud of the work we have done in that area. It is a huge accomplishment.”

Grand Beginnings provides family assistance to more than 60 families a year and has partnered with the Mountain Family Center to leverage resources, streamline their programs and facilitate the work they do for the families of Grand and Jackson counties.

Just like a house, the brain needs a strong foundation and construction starts early. Lokteff said, ”We are thankful and excited about everything this community has done for the kids. They are our future leaders, teachers and business people. Our goal is to continue to provide services and promote awareness to early care and education.”

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