Photo: Patriot Plaza

Handling the Unexpected: Creating ways for all to experience Patriot Plaza

Posted on December 07, 2020 by Stacey Gadeken, administrative support for The Patterson Foundation
Life in 2020 is weird, and most people vacillate as we cope, adapt, and innovate through its challenges. Thankfully, 2020 is almost over, and I think most people have a new appreciation for what they have.

When the pandemic began, we had a senior in high school and a seventh-grader. Going virtual with school, work, and other activities was unpredictable. Many events were canceled without notice. My seventh-grader was actually on a bus headed to a much-anticipated field trip when they were called back to the school. My family spent a lot of time coping with all the things that we would be missing, like a normal high school graduation and family trips. We soon learned to adapt and appreciate the things we do have—family dinners, learning new card games, watching movies together, finding new hobbies—and actually having the time to do them.

It's also amazing what technology has enabled us to do, and thankfully, amid COVID-19, the work of The Patterson Foundation has not stopped. I have been working here for 3 ½ years now, but one particular initiative has a special place in my heart—Patriot Plaza.

I grew up in military towns and on military bases surrounded by people familiar with all things military. I took for granted that this is not the case for everyone. I come from a proud military family…I’m an Air Force brat. This is not a derogatory term, it means I have a parent who was in the military. My dad was in the Air Force. I am also the daughter of Air Force brats, both of my grandfathers were veterans. Now, I am a very proud mother of a son who is a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this particular initiative that honors veterans, inspires patriotism, and embraces freedom.

Under normal circumstances, eighth-graders in Sarasota County took an EdExploreSRQ exploration to Patriot Plaza where veterans regularly gave educational tours. However, this year is anything but ordinary, so TPF needed to reimagine who this initiative could still serve, considering the circumstances. We wanted to come up with an aide that could help people of all ages enjoy the amazing resource of Patriot Plaza and learn at the same time. This was how the Patriot Plaza Family Engagement Activity Book was born. The first workbook was released in time for Veterans Day and was themed around the different branches of the Armed Forces. It's filled with pictures, interesting facts, word searches, and coloring pages. It can be used at home or when visiting in-person. Sarasota National Cemetery is still open from dawn until dusk every day, but there are no guided tours. There is fantastic artwork, moving stories, great photography, and stunning views.

The next edition of the Patriot Plaza Family Engagement Activity Book will focus on the history of national cemeteries, the different branches, and traditions and symbols. You can find more information about Patriot Plaza, the Family Engagement Activity Book, and the 2020 Patriot Plaza Calendar on our website.

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