Twenty preschoolers excitedly lined the sidewalks of Longwood University’s campus and strolled to Stubbs Lawn on a beautiful fall afternoon in Farmville. “We learned from wise mentors before us that fundraising is never the goal- the goal is to enhance early education of our community’s precious kids.” Mr. Ian Danielsen, an assistant professor in the Social Work Program at Longwood University, reflected on The Andy Taylor Center Walk-A-Thon. The event took place on October 20, 2021 on Stubbs Lawn at Longwood University. Hosted by the Phi Alpha Social Work Honors Society, parents and children from The Andy Taylor Center participated in a field day with games and raffles. Individuals who engaged in the walk-a-thon pledged to raise funds based on the number of miles walked. All the funds raised went towards scholarships for the Center. “Money should never be an obstacle to receiving quality services,” explained Dr. Eileen Adams. Dr. Adams began working at the Andy Taylor Center in February and is currently the site director. “Working at the Center is everything I could’ve wished for,” she stated.

The event began with a walk from The Andy Taylor Center on Fourth Street to Stubbs Lawn on campus. “It was a multi-party event, a team effort,” Mr. Danielsen explained. Aaliyah Cunningham, President of the Phi Alpha honors society, organized lawn game stations including giant Jenga, checkers, volleyball, and giant Connect Four. Aramark, from campus dining, graciously donated cookies, chips, and water to create a snack station for the children. The last hour of the event involved a basket raffle organized by Mr. Danielsen. Ten baskets were donated from different academic departments across campus. Over $3,000 was raised for the Center’s scholarship funding. The event concluded with remarks from Mr. Danielsen, Dr. Adams, Aaliyah, and Dr. Power-deFur, the Dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Services.

“Planning for The Andy Taylor Center Walk-a-thon began in the summer,” Aaliyah explained. The field day involved many individuals including parents, children, Phi Alpha students, Andy Taylor staff, and Longwood faculty. “I enjoyed meeting the founder of the Andy Taylor Center as well as the parents of the children,” Aaliyah answered when asked about rewarding aspects of the field day. Mr. Danielsen also commented on takeaways by stating, “We achieved a goal but also had fun. I enjoyed watching it all come together and seeing social work students practice mission-centeredness.” Dr. Adams explained that seeing all the parents with their kids on the lawn made it all worth it. “I was moved to see people care about providing funds for these children and opening doors into their futures.”

The Andy Taylor Center is currently in the process of moving to an on-campus facility in the basement of Lankford Hall. The school is set up to serve preschoolers, ages two to four. They are also in the process of expanding to serve infants and toddlers, ages zero to twenty-four months. The Center is founded on the Reggio Emilia approach to learning which is a child-centered and child-led philosophy. It honors children and considers them valuable contributors to their environment. The Andy Taylor Center Walk-A-Thon allowed numbers at the Center to grow significantly. “The event gave me a deep appreciation for the people who care for the Center. Aaliyah and Dr. Danielsen are forces of nature.” Dr. Adams stated. Mr. Danielsen concluded his reflections on the events by remarking, “This year’s field day was a model year. I left excited for the future and thrilled for the next year. I am looking forward to more connections, more fundraising, and enhancing the quality of life for these children.”