In honor of Mister Rogers’ birthday, celebrate what it means to be a neighbor
I loved Fred Rogers and had the opportunity to meet him on two occasions. Once, at a meeting of the Annenberg Foundation where he received a lifetime achievement award, he brought an entire room of adults to tears when he invited them to join him in silent meditation honoring the people in everyone’s life for whom they were thankful and probably had never told them, or told them in adequate terms. At the time, my mother was in the final stages of her life. As I closed my eyes and thought of all the things she had done for me, tears flowed down my face. When the meditation ended and I opened my eyes to look around the room, I was shocked to see wet faces of every single person around me. Fred’s simple invitation made a tremendous impact. And, fortunately, his life’s work continues to do just that.
Fred Rogers began each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with this question in song: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” His company, Family Communications (the nonprofit company founded by Fred Rogers) is building on that invitation by asking people around the country to join in celebrating his legacy of neighborliness on his birthday, March 20.
“It started simply enough,” explains Margy Whitmer of Family Communications, Inc.. “We wanted to recognize Fred in a way that would reflect his deep appreciation of what it means to be a neighbor. Originally part of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary in 2008, it was so successful that we’re making it an annual national event.”
Once again this year a variety of organizations are participating by hosting activities and family-friendly events in their communities. Museums are offering free or discounted admissions. Libraries are providing “neighborhood” themed activities and story hours. Community organizations are launching Mister Rogers’ Sweater Drives or food drives.
“To mark the day, we’re also asking everyone everywhere to wear a sweater,” says David Newell. FCI’s PR Director and Mr. McFeely. “It doesn’t have to have a zipper down the front like the one Mister Rogers wore on the program, it just has to be one of your favorites,” he says.
“What’s been so encouraging,” says FCI president Bill Isler, “is the enthusiastic response from leaders at the cultural treasures in our region. By offering free or reduced admissions, they are providing opportunities for children and families that may change and enrich their lives in unexpected, wonderful ways. Through the generosity of these caring ‘neighbors,’ children will be able to enjoy puppet making, musical presentations, and much more.”
Mr. McFeely — aka David Newell, the public relations director for Family Communications, Inc. (the nonprofit company founded in 1971 by Fred Rogers) — has a special request. “We’re asking everyone everywhere to wear their favorite sweater on that day,” he asks in his best speedy delivery voice. “It doesn’t have to have a zipper down the front like the one Mister Rogers wore on the program, it just has to be special to you.”
“We wanted to recognize Fred in a way that would reflect his deep appreciation of what it means to be a caring neighbor,” explains FCI’s Margy Whitmer.
As a result, “’Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Days — WYBMND for short, although not by much — was born as a means of promoting neighborliness throughout America.
Won’t you wear a sweater on March 20?
For more information about “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day visit www.fci.org/neighbor.
Schedule of Neighbor Day Events in Southwestern Pennsylvania
Ideas for “Won’t You be my Neighbor?” Day
Special benefit screenings of the new film My Tale of Two Cities in honor of “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” Day
Fred Rogers named his company Family Communications because what he most wanted was to help families with the imposrtnat tlak - talk about thoughts, feelings and concerns. Family Communications offers a wealth of insights, tips and activity suggestions for parents and other caregivers to help young children grow and learn. Subjects include: angry feelings, bedtime, child care, curioisityu, death, disabilities, diversity, divorce, environment, fears, learning and literacy, mealtime, medical experiences, moving, music, new baby, play and creativity, potty training, rules and discipline, self-esteen, sharing and tragic events in the news. To learn more, go here.