- May 22, 2014
Zip up your cardigans, lace up your sneakers and get ready for a beautiful day in the neighborhood, as Winter Park celebrates America’s favorite neighbor with a new local holiday on Sunday.
Winter Park’s recently inducted mayor, Steve Leary, will declare March 29 “Be My Neighbor Day,” in tribute to Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The proclamation will take place at 12:15 p.m. in Central Park, as part of Winter Park’s first-ever Be My Neighbor Day event, organized by the Winter Park History Museum and WUCF TV Central Florida PBS.
To honor Rogers’ life and all things neighborly, the free event will host family-friendly activities related to being a good neighbor, a pop-up exhibit on Rogers’ life, and a meet and greet with the title character of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” a spinoff of Rogers’ iconic show.
“[WUCF TV and the Winter Park History Museum] are thrilled to be good neighbors of Central Florida,” said Catherine Hiles, education and community engagement manager at WUCF TV, inviting the community to attend the event and learn more about the organizations.
Five activity stations, based loosely “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” episodes, will promote being a good neighbor through giving back, being thoughtful, doing nice things for others, being helpful, staying in school and sharing kindness, Hiles said.
Neighborly activities include creating goodie bags for the children at Arnold Palmer hospital, which will be delivered by Daniel Tiger, writing thank-you cards, planting sunflowers, encouraging kids to stay in school and sharing kind words through social media.
Susan Skolfield, executive director of the Winter Park History Museum, said Rogers had strong ties to Winter Park, where he attended college and met his wife Sara Joanne Byrd. He lived in a house near Lake Osceola and earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Composition at Rollins College. After his graduation in 1951, Rogers maintained a relationship with the Music Department at Rollins and was known to sit in on classes when he visited the campus.
As a student, Rogers scribbled, “life is for service,” on a piece of paper and is said to have carried it in his wallet throughout the rest of his life. This message — which embodied his life’s work — was on a plaque in a walkway at Rollins College when he first read it. The school honored him with a stone in its Walk of Fame in 1991.
For more than 30 years, Rogers fulfilled his dedication to service, by teaching children lessons of kindness, friendship and love, and using a public television platform to make the world a better place. Although he passed away in 2003, his calm, reassuring demeanor and classic sweater-sneakers combo will be remembered by the millions of people who enjoyed his broadcast.
As part of its archives and special collections, Rollins College possesses one of Rogers’ sweaters — which was sewn by his mother¬ — and a pair of his sneakers, which will be on display throughout the event.
“We’d like to encourage everyone to come enjoy the day, and learn about Mister Rogers and his legacy of being a good neighbor,” Skolfield said.