REUNION TIPS

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May 18, 2014
Make reunions fun by having themed events and activities.


May 25, 2014
Start reunions off with icebreaker activities to get family members talking and mingling.
Keep a first aid kit on hand at family picnics.

March, 2014
Every family reunion has an issue (or two or three) that needs to be resolved so that it’s comfortable and enjoyable for all who attend. Give Yourself Enough Time to Plan is our tip this week. Not taking enough time to plan your reunion can lead to problems making proper arrangements, meeting attendee goals, and enjoying the day when it comes. It takes time to put a reunion together especially if it’s your first. Especially if you have a big family. Especially if you’re planning to hold it in a location away from where the planner(s) live. Especially if you’re planning an event that lasts for more than one day. Especially if you haven’t been in touch with family members for a long time. Especially if you’re having to communicate via multiple mediums (postal mail, email, word of mouth, Facebook, etc.). Rather than rush through the planning, take time to carefully plan the reunion out, and give yourself enough time to get things done; communicate the reunion schedule; get responses; and collect monies. And leave yourself open to the possibility of needed modifications or adjustments that are all too often part of planning for a group. If you’ve planned carefully enough, the adjustments will be minor interruptions rather than big problems. And when you can, err on the side of caution and add an additional week or two when setting up deliveries of reunion materials. If your t-shirts take two weeks to be delivered, set your delivery date at least three weeks prior to the reunion. That way you’re not panicking if they come a day or two later than they’re due.

May 4, 2014
If having a reunion during a national holiday, add free local activities to your itinerary. This will pump up the excitement and make less work for those planning the reunion.

September, 2014
For the record: When lodging at hotels, keep a record of when, where and how much because your lodging history can be very valuable when negotiating rates in the future. When the reunion is said and done, record your reunion numbers: the date, location, and number of days; number of attendees; number of hotel room nights you contracted for and secured; amount of money you spent on food and beverages; etc. This information comes in handy. Especially when negotiating with hotels, and if the reunion planning changes hands from one year to the next. Don’t expect hotels to keep a record of this information for you. Keep a copy of your final rooming list and other receipts and use them to show your family’s investment and worth when negotiating for your next reunion.

November, 2014
The end of the year holidays can also serve as a mini-reunion. You can talk about family history, share stories from the past and how your holiday traditions got started. Have a fashion and/or talent show. And don't forget to share those secret family recipes with the younger generations so they can be passed on and enjoyed for years and years to come.

December, 2014
Taking photos is a fun thing to do during the holidays, and cell phones and tablets make it easy to do. However, placing the photos in an album is something we’ve gotten away from doing—but we should get back to it. Taking selfies with your cousins, pics of the newest family baby, favorite aunt and uncle, and grandmom and grandpop make for lasting memories, but you can’t ogle over them from one holiday to the next if they’re lost and forgotten in an old phone, sitting somewhere in a cloud, or on someone’s old phone. So this year when the holidays are done, ask family members who’ve taken pictures to email them to you, then use them to create a collage and place them in a photo album and on your family website for easy access and future viewing. 

January, 2015
Your brain and short-term goals are like BFF's. It’s not that long-term goals aren’t great, they just don’t allow you to be successful early on. Many of us establish resolutions for the New Year, and it may be wise to collapse those goals into smaller pieces so that you don’t break them. Why give yourself a humongous goal that takes a lot of time to accomplish? Not only do you delay your success, you delay satisfaction.  Smaller steps provide quicker accomplishment, and the momentum to continue achieving. In the end, you’ll accomplish your larger goal - with a bigger smile! Smaller steps give you less of a chance to get discouraged; lead to more success; and provide less chance for procrastination to creep in. So avoid discouragement and procrastination by keeping your goals short-term. Chop them into bite-sized pieces and get ready for success.

February, 2015
On Valentine's Day don't forget about the kids. They need love too, and Valentine's Day is the perfect time to share and show love for the entire family.


March, 2015
Want to say goodbye to winter and have some family fun at the same time? Make a plan with your family members to create "Ode to Winter" photos. Post them to your Facebook page for family members to view, and see whose photo gets the most likes and/or shares. Remember to be creative, keep the photos family-friendly, and have some fun.

April, 2015
Rainy April weekends are a great time to plan a family call-a-thon, where family members call at least two family members each—someone they know well and someone they’d like to know better. And it’s so easy to do. Put together a list of family members and their phone numbers, and send to your family. On rainy weekends call at least two family members, (and not the same two every time). Not sure what to say? Start by saying, “hello, this is your cousin (your name) from (city, state), just calling to say hello and see how you and your family are doing”.

May, 2015
One of the best ways to get to know family members is being able to put a face with their name. On Mother’s Day, while family members are together, take generational photos of family mom’s (mom, grandmom, great-grandmom, etc.) and share them on your family web or Facebook page. During the reunion take the individual mom photos and arrange them individually on a sheet to see who can match the most mom’s with their correct name and family members.   

June, 2015
Having a reunion this month? Looking for unique activities to add? Try a graduation ceremony for family grads to recognize their accomplishment. Let dads strut their stuff down a “runway” or Soul Train line, and introduce themselves. And since June is a big wedding month—have married couples bring in their wedding photos for sharing, and ask them how they met, what makes their marriage work, and what they love about one another. All three ideas inspire as well as help family members get to know one another better.


July, 2015
July is a BIG reunion month and there’s bound to be a new family or family member attending who you don’t know much about. Try these two ideas for helping new reunion attendees feel welcomed and comfortable. 1 - Play a few, fun icebreaker games at your opening event and 2  - create name badges that start a conversation. For example: my name is:  Sylvia, Do you know me? 

August, 2015
One of the best tips we can give regarding the selection of a reunion location and/or facility is to do a site visit. Don’t rely on brochure and online photos and information. CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF. Ask about any planned, upcoming construction. Take a tour of the facilities. Prepare a checklist and take it with you so that all of your concerns can be addressed. (You can get samples online.) If the facility is not in your local area, let them know you’re scouting a facility for a reunion and ask if they will provide an overnight stay so you can check them out. Most facilities, especially hotels, are willing to provide a proposal, tour of the facility, and complimentary overnight stay when asked.


September, 2015
Spend some time at every reunion emphasizing the importance of education and motivating students to do their best in school. Why? Children need all the encouragement they can get to work hard, study hard, stay in school and do their best. And believe it or not family members—whether elders or peers—are good role models. So cheer them on and don’t shy away from providing rewards, trophies, scholarships, mentoring, tutoring, etc. for deserving students.

October, 2015
TV One aired an original movie at the end of September called Welcome to the Family about a young lady who used her family reunion to reveal her engagement. The only thing was, while at the reunion she learned her fiancee…was her cousin. The tv show ended on a good note, however we’ve known situations that ended quite differently. The bottom line? Get to know your family.

 
November, 2015
Back in the day, long before cell phones and texting, people spent a good amount of time talking with one another—face-to-face, real time, in person. Today, not so much. We see it all too often at reunions, family events and gatherings when young people (mostly) are passionately texting—but not talking or communicating. Our goal is to get them talking and getting to know one another. Help them by creating a No Phone Zone reunion event or activity. Like a 1-hour Get-to-Know You round-table discussion where you write discussion topics on 3x5 cards that include family history and current events, and randomly pick them for discussing. You can make it a game, (which family member makes the best greens, who can’t fry chicken, who has the most siblings), making sure to include historic and funny anecdotes about family members, past and present. You can even try it out at upcoming holiday gatherings by asking family members to dock their phones during family dinner. Hopefully they’ll see and agree that talking with one another is worth every minute they spend away from their phones.

December, 2015
End of year holidays are like mini-family reunions and provide a great opportunity to engage in family history and storytelling. This holiday season, take time out to tell stories about how family elders and ancestors celebrated and prepared for the holidays;  sing classic Christmas carols and songs; and share favorite holiday recipes. And, if you really want to feel good this holiday season, get the family together to participate in an Angel Tree project OR to help a family member (or two) in need.


January, 2016
Start the New Year off with a pep-rally for the reunion planning team to encourage, strengthen, inspire and keep them energized. Planning reunions can feel like a thankless job at times, but to the family members who donate their time, effort and finances, reunion planning is worth every minute and penny. During the pep-rally thank the team for their efforts; promote their working together as a team; challenge them to identify obstacles and ways to overcome them; encourage them to bring forth new ideas; and cheer them on for upcoming tasks and responsibilities. You can hold the pep-rally during your next planning meeting or as a separate event.

February, 2016
A great project for Valentine’s Day that can help bridge the generation gap between the eldest and youngest family members would be to have the young ones create Valentine Day cards and mail them to family elders, including their grandparents. Handcrafted cards will get the most smiles, but store brought cards are great too, because it’s the thought that counts. Letting family elders know they’re thought of and loved throughout the year is a great gift making this a win-win project for both the elders and the young people.


March, 2016
Turn the Easter holiday into a mini-reunion with local family members. It will give you another chance to spend time with the family; encourage attendance at the reunion; share family stories and recipes; and provide opportunity for family members to show-off their holiday wear. 


April, 2016
There’s nothing wrong with a little family competition during the reunion. Cook-off’s or Taste Tests for the best cake, fried chicken or potato salad; spelling and math bee’s for the kids; or family-friendly Olympic races for all ages are great ways to instill a little fun and competition into the reunion.

May, 2016
Having a reunion only one day of 365 doesn't do much to keep the family bonding and intact. It's important to use family birthdays and holidays to fill in the gap and help family stay close and growing together. So be sure to spend Mother's Day bonding with family.


June, 2016

What’s the most important part of a reunion? Letting family members know that they matter, that they are welcomed, and that they are loved. And as Dr. Vargus explains in The Family this month, children whose parents have been separated or divorced, and newfound or first-time members to the reunion are very vulnerable. We should do all we can to embrace them and let them know they matter and are cared about. We don’t choose family—or the circumstances behind our birth. We can however, choose to accept, welcome and embrace those who share our bloodline.


July, 2016

Reunions provide plenty of opportunity to spend time with family members who are alive and well and attending, but don’t forget about relatives who have passed on or are sick or shut in. Setting aside time to celebrate family ancestors and those who passed since the last reunion is a perfect way to pay homage and let the younger generation know that family members should be remembered, and that family history is important.

For family members who are sick or shut in, consider getting “we missed you” cards and having family members sign them during the reunion. Then mail the card and include a group photo if possible.

Remember every family member counts, every family member matters—whether they make it to the reunion or not. If they don’t, they’re missing out on all the hoopla, togetherness and fun, so reach out to them (and not just during the reunion) so they know you care.


August, 2016

Reunions are already a happy place to be, and there’s always a way to make more happiness. Here are two ideas for spreading the joy.


>Think of ways you can spread happiness beyond the reunion especial
ly with family seniors and children, or single moms and dads who may need a little help.


>Create fill-in the blank coupons for family members to identify services they can provide (such as tutoring, cooking, babysitting, gardening, etc.). Then put the coupons in individual envelopes and use them as door prizes during your reunion. It’s a win-win for the whole family.


September, 2016

Spend some time at every reunion emphasizing the importance of education and motivating students to do their best in school. Why? Children need all the encouragement they can get to work hard, study hard, stay in school and do their best. And believe it or not family members—whether elders or peers—are good role models. So cheer them on and don’t shy away from providing rewards, trophies, scholarships, mentoring, tutoring, etc. for deserving students.

October, 2016

Some folks think good manners are a lost art. They’re not. Manners are always a good thing to bring with you to the reunion—and they’re welcome wherever you go. We were surprised at this year’s reunion by the number of younger family members who were mannerly, courteous and respectful. They represented their parents—and the family—well. It reassured us that if you gently remind the young ones when they should show good manners, they will eventually grow to do it on their own.


November, 2016

Teaching our children life values is important especially if we want them to be strong, thoughtful, productive citizens when they grow up. Some people don’t like to discuss politics with family, thinking it will lead to arguments and division. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And in light of this year’s Presidential Election and all that it has invoked, teaching our children how to have respectful, civil, courteous discussions where everyone’s opinion matters, can be done, especially as a reunion activity. You can plan a discussion (or a debate) to review current events, politics, family values, etc. Getting the whole family involved is a good way to bridge the generation gap and help family members get to know one another better. And if young and elder family members come to the discussion with open minds, a lot can be shared and learned.


December, 2016

If one of your goals is to encourage family members to keep in touch between reunions, give Facebook Live a try. At one of our recent reunion planning meetings a younger family member made the suggestion. Of course some of us older folks were hesitant (especially after seeing how some folk behave and share on Facebook). But after careful consideration, and with a little organization and a few rules, it could very well become a hit with your family members.

Organize the schedule: 1-so that everyone’s not on at the same time; 2-to let family members know who’s on and when; and 3-to give members time to “friend” one another prior to the Live event. Include a rule that all events must be family friendly and suitable for & respectful of family elders and the youngest family members. If a family member doesn’t comply, don’t include them when advertising future events. And, family members who are more social media savvy than others should assist and/or share the Live events with those who are not.

Family members can introduce themselves and/or their entire family; say how they’re connected; showcase a talent, do a Mannequin Challenge, sing Christmas Carols, etc. You can identify themes or ask family members to be unique—just as long as they stay in touch.


January, 2017

When planning the reunion some projects get more attention than others (like selecting the venue; identifying itinerary and cost; collecting payments), and others (like a Memory Board for instance), get pushed aside until the last minute—and sometimes get axed because there’s not enough time to get them done properly. However, if you take some time out in January, February and March to think those “small” projects through and get family members to forward information that’s needed, you could end up pulling together a great, quality product that will bring lots of smiles and pride to the family.


February, 2017

Showing family members love should be more than a once a year thing in February, and for many of us that’s true. However, as our lives get busier and time keeps flying by we often put off connecting and showing love to those we care about the most. So why not use this “love month” to schedule “love time” with family. Sit down with your 2017 calendar and schedule dates to meet with family members throughout the year. Commit to the schedule to truly turn love month into a loving year. And because human contact is a big part of sharing love, get the young folks involved. Show them that while texting, instagram, Facebook and the like may make for quick and easy contact, human contact—connecting by voice and/or sight—does a lot more good.


April, 2017

Still trying to get a handle on reunion activities for this year? Remember what it was like to be a kid, and think about the things you did to have fun. Then, incorporate some of those activities in your reunion. Jump rope, hoola-hoop, playing jacks, 1-2-3 Green Light, Hide and Seek, Horseshoes, water balloon toss—fun games that could stand a comeback, and your reunion is the perfect time and place. With little costs, you can have maximum fun, and all generations can participate.


May, 2017

May is home to Love a Tree Day, and we’re advocating for that tree to be your family tree. To ensure younger family members are really gaining knowledge about your family’s ancestry, have each of them prepare a family tree beginning with their own family, and see how far they can trace the family. You can do this as a reunion project by having them bring their trees with them to the reunion or making it an activity for the reunion.


June, 2017

Did you ever notice there's never enough photos with dad in the family and/or family reunion photo album? That can be easily corrected this month by taking as many "dad and me" photos as possible and posting them for all to see—at home and during the reunion.


July, 2017

Pictures are a great way to make memories last, and you can use social media to help share your family’s pictures with the family-at-large by creating an online photo album. Ask family members to send their photos in or give permission to share photos they place on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Then place the photos in the online album and share the album link. This way even family members who live miles apart can enjoy each others pictures the moment they happen. 


August, 2017

Looking for games to play at the reunion to get young folks off their phones, ipads and gaming devices? Look no further than the games older family members played growing up like dodgeball, kickball, jump rope, red light, hide n’ seek, relay races, Mother May I, hula hoops, Go Fish, Old Maid, jacks, etc. Not only will the young ones get some much needed exercise, these games will lead to loads of fun and laughter. And, may even get some of the older family members involved.


September, 2017

Families prepare for every part of life except a disaster. And the scariest moments during one is 1-the inability to reach family members and 2-the not knowing what or where or how they’re doing. With September being National Preparedness Month, our tip this month is about getting your family prepared.

One thing you can do during, before or after the reunion is gather everyone’s contact information and share it with the entire clan so that in case of emergency you won’t have to go searching for number’s. As mentioned above, https://www/ready.gov/september has loads of information to help educate your family on ways to get prepared for disasters. The site even suggests downloading a group texting app so the entire crew can keep in touch before, during and after an emergency.

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