Mother Nature sent a surprise to Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday. Forecasters only predicted a dusting of snow, but by evening residents found themselves stranded due to a combination of snow, ice, and heavy traffic.
“We had some people leave for a couple of hours and come right back,” said Shawna Lund, Center Director at Riverchase KinderCare in Hoover. “Traffic is awful and people couldn’t get home, so they figured it was better to be here than stuck on the freeway.”
On a typical night the center closes at 6:30 p.m., but as the evening went on and area roads remained closed or jammed with commuters, Shawna and her staff decided to do something extraordinary; They kept their center open all night for a snow sleepover.
“It’s a little bit out of our routine, but everyone’s love’n it,” Shawna said. “We’re serving dinner, making ice cream snow with vanilla and condensed milk, and then we’re going to go to bed and wake up to a wonderful breakfast.”
The “we” includes 24 students of all ages, eight parents, a few siblings, and all but one staff member. After dinner parents helped teachers pull every single craft supply out of the closets in the multipurpose room, creating the largest craft station children had ever seen. As if that wasn’t enticing enough, there was always the snow outside.
“For most of these kids, it’s the first time they’ve ever seen snow,” said Shawna as she explained how staff took children out in small groups all day long to make snowballs and snow angels and just generally run around the playground. “The kids are loving the snow. They’re in great spirits and are enjoying their sleepover.”
While the children enjoyed the double surprise of snow and a center sleepover, Shawna and her staff fielded many a phone call from an anxious parent snowed in at work. Parents called the center in tears, worried their child was frightened because Mommy or Daddy wasn’t able to pick them up and take them home.
“We’ve been emailing and texting photos to parents all day: lots of photos,” explained Shawna. “We’re showing them all is good. We are definitely engaged with our families!”