West Genesee School District bus drivers love kids so much they volunteered to spend time with them during the February school break. On Thursday, Feb. 19, several dozen members of the transportation department at the school district just west of Syracuse welcomed elementary schoolchildren to the middle school. The drivers transported them to a movie, brought them back to the school for lunch, and then oversaw the activities in the school gym. The event ran from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The drivers expected 400 children, but rotten Syracuse weather kept all but 80 kids home.
“This is a pilot program, it’s the first year we’re attempting this,” said Joe Grabowski, who drives a school bus for the district and who took the lead in organizing the event, with help from his union brothers and sisters. “All of the Local 200United members in transportation volunteered their time. When we thought of this event, we figured it’s been a long winter here, the kids are on break, let’s invite them to a fun day out.”
The day began early, at 7:30 a.m., when parents began dropping off their children at the middle school. The kids then boarded buses to a movie theater the members had rented just north of Syracuse for a showing of Penguins of Madagascar. They then returned to the school for lunch served by Local 200United members, and an afternoon program featuring Syracuse’s strongest man, a basketball game, an American Idol-type singing competition, and a tug of war with firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Guess who won?
“The theme for the day,” said Grabowski, “is ‘Believe in Yourself and Never Give Up.’ Each of the events we have this afternoon relates to that–you work hard, you will succeed.” Indeed, after senior class president, Alex Tripodi, gave the kids a motivational message, Syracuse’s Strongest Man, Wyatt Lozano, wowed the crowd by bending a steel bar, bench pressing 405 pounds five times, and then doing multiple shoulder shrugs with three members standing on the barbell already loaded with weights, for a total of 1,600 pounds. “If you keep working hard, you will achieve your dreams,” said Lozano, a graduate of West Genesee High School.
Forty union members participated in the day of fun for the students. Parents paid $10 to cover expenses, and the booster club and Weststar Credit Union provided prizes for the singing contest. West Genesee Superintendent Christopher Brown donated the use of the buses, including gas, as well as the school itself for the event.
With the success of this kids’ day out, Grabowski expects the transportation department members to organize another for February break 2016. “I received a lot of positive feedback from my co-workers in the garage,” said Grabowski. “The event showed us that we have fun together when we work as a unit. We’re looking forward to doing this again next year.”