Be My Neighbor Day invites families to participate in volunteer activities that aid neighbors in need. WFYI was well into planning its Be My Neighbor Day, slated for April 25, when the pandemic grabbed hold in Indiana. With grant support, we partnered with the Indianapolis Public Library, PNC Bank, Child Care Answers and the Indiana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, anticipating that we’d see 1,200 children.
The event would’ve had live music, Daniel Tiger and other PBS characters. Children would’ve been able to make coloring books, draw bookmarks and participate in many other activities. Library staff and volunteers would’ve helped children pick books, provided information about the resources at the library and assisted families in signing up for library cards. Finally, children would’ve interacted with the helpers in their communities through other activities, such as meeting pediatric residents (and getting a prescription for reading). The Indianapolis Fire Department, Immigrant Welcome Center, Mom’s Helpline and more would’ve been on hand, too.
Then the pandemic forced us to reimagine how we’d deliver Be My Neighbor Day’s message of kindness.
Now, we’re honoring our partners and finding ways to reach more children and their families at a time when being neighborly and caring matters so much. Instead of having a one-day event, we’re doing Be My Neighbor Week starting Aug. 24. Our community engagement team enlisted volunteers to help assemble and deliver Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood gift bags – each including a Daniel Tiger book, Be My Neighbor Day t-shirt, Daniel Tiger stickers, a toy, coloring sheets, game charts and suggested activities for being neighborly. Volunteers also wrote note cards to encourage children to be neighborly and included them in the bags. We used grant funds to buy more Daniel Tiger books from a local nonprofit bookstore. And we curated Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episodes and created a Bingo game to align with them.
We worked with community partners Early Learning Indiana and Child Care Answers to distribute the books to the children of essential workers and families in ministries and day homes. All WFYI staff with children under 6 years old also received bags.
Be My Neighbor Day is a day of service, though, and we didn’t want to lose that in the pandemic pivot. WFYI volunteers are delivering gift bags to Early Learning Indiana centers, as well as ministries and day homes. They made and continue to make blankets for cats and dogs at Indy Humane and twin-sized blankets for a local domestic violence shelter. Staff and volunteers contributed lip balm to gift to children at Riley Children’s Hospital. We also implemented a digital and on-air marketing campaign to encourage families to participate in volunteer activities. Those who send stories or photos will be entered into a drawing for Daniel Tiger baskets.
All of this precludes and leads into a separately planned Mr. Rogers pledge weekend.