Monday, December 31, 2018

Owed to Volunteers!

By C.J. Hirschfield

Finding caterpillar eggs. Helping kids make fairy houses. Handing out treats on Halloween. Making popcorn for a family sleepover. Pulling weeds. Leading a Toddler Storytime.

These are just a handful of the many volunteer opportunities that Fairyland offers.

As we enter the new year, I want to take a moment to thank the 540 awesome Fairyland volunteers who contributed a total of 3,700 service hours in 2018. I’d like to reflect on the amazing work they helped us accomplish — without them, we simply would not have been able to serve as many happy kids as we did.

26 volunteers recently helped us take down our Fairy Winterland lights. This helper came to us from One Brick.

Who are these fairy godparents? A snapshot:

4 volunteers contributed more than 85 hours each
7 new inspiring Toddler Storytime readers were trained
10 Monarch Magicians saved more than 500 monarch butterflies

Monday, December 17, 2018

An Ice Rink Glides into Old Oakland

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last Friday I witnessed something in Old Oakland that I'd never seen in our city: dozens of kids, teens, and adults gliding, laughing, and occasionally stumbling around an outdoor ice rink.

Magic? No – just the latest creative idea born of creativity and civic determination. It was the grand opening of the Old Oakland Holiday Ice Rink – Oakland’s first outdoor ice rink in 63 years – in a space formerly occupied by a parking lot.
Skating in the Old Oakland Holiday Ice Rink. Photo: Visit Oakland

Monday, December 10, 2018

Giving That Feels Good

By C.J. Hirschfield

This is a special time of year at Children’s Fairyland. While Fairyland rings with the laughter of children and families on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, we have the rest of the week to tend to our facility’s needs, to reflect on what we were able to accomplish this past year, and to plan for the next.

Last year we learned that families living in temporary housing often find themselves without shelter for part of the day. Knowing how difficult that must be, we launched a new program, in partnership with First 5 Alameda County and Lyft, to become a haven for families waiting for shelter space during their transition. Using Lyft’s concierge service, we arrange for round-trip transportation from the shelter to Fairyland and welcome the families with admission passes and vouchers for lunch from our Johnny Appleseed Café.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Child's Play

By C.J. Hirschfield

With recent reports of unhealthy air keeping our youngest kids indoors – and parents looking for ways to keep them entertained – it was interesting to learn about the three toys just inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, two of which are played at home: the mystical and mesmerizing Magic 8 Ball and the popular Uno card game. (The third “toy” is pinball.) Honorees were chosen from a field of finalists that included a wide range of candidates, from American Girl Dolls to chalk.

The most recent inductees in the National Toy Hal of Fame

Monday, November 19, 2018

Smoked Out

By C.J. Hirschfield

In my wildest dreams, I never thought we’d have to close Children’s Fairyland due to unhealthy air. You probably have discovered the website that rates the air with a number and a color. Did we even know that such a site existed? Now, in addition to constantly checking the weather reports, we at Fairyland check the air quality reports.

Aerial view of smoke-shrouded Lake Merritt, November 11, 2018. Photo by Chris Linden

We thought last year’s fires and the accompanying smoke were anomalies. Not so much, it turns out. Our outdoor park has had to close the last two weekends in the interest of public safety. While we’ve been closed, we hope families have taken advantage of the Habitot indoor play zone in Berkeley, of board games, of Oobleck (look it up; it’s a lifesaver), and, of course, of storytelling. Don’t be shy about injecting songs, dance and wacky voices in your readings to children.

We hope our guests will return on the three days following Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Tagging Fairyland's Monarchs

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last week, Fairyland horticulturist Jackie Salas realized a dream she’d doggedly been pursuing for four years: the right to put a tag on the wing of a monarch butterfly that hails from Fairyland’s gardens. What may result from her quest could make a difference for our planet.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Garden as Inspiration

Children’s Fairyland was proud to once again participate in this year’s Autumn Lights Festival at the Gardens at Lake Merritt across the street – we think it was the best ever! We wanted to share a column written by Tora Rocha, the festival’s overall director and the woman who inspired and continues to oversee this incredible fundraiser for the Gardens. We also wanted to let folks know about the generous support provided by Niantic, the San Francisco–based software company best known for developing the augmented-reality mobile games Ingress, Pokémon GO, and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. 

The Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt is a nonprofit organization set up to maintain and support the Gardens at Lake Merritt, and the Autumn Lights Festival helps raise funds for the ongoing support of the Gardens. 
 C.J. Hirschfield, executive director, Children’s Fairyland

By Tora Rocha 

For the past seven years we’ve hosted the Autumn Lights Festival at the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The purpose is to showcase the amazing array of light artists in the Bay Area, as well as to raise funds for the ongoing maintenance and beautification of the Gardens themselves. As the City of Oakland’s park supervisor of the Gardens at Lake Merritt, I had decided I needed to find a way to raise money and awareness of the Gardens, since it was a little-known secret in the community. I came up with the idea of a nighttime event to light up the Gardens with local artists. 

Tora Rocha at the 2018 Autumn Lights Festival. Photo by John Kirkmire

In the years that we’ve hosted the Autumn Lights Festival, we have met more and more amazing community members who see the Gardens in a new light.