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Home Away From Home Family Daycare


It was a dream vacation, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; 24 weeks to travel the country with little more than a backpack containing the minimal amount of clothing, just following the nose on his face to 12 predetermined destinations.

There was horseback riding here in Maryland, fishing in Texas, a visit to Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuse, swimming, jet skiing, hiking and visits to museums from Virginia to California and back with requisite postcards to remember the experience.

From mid-June to early December, the traveler had the freedom of the open road, just the sky above him and the feel of earth beneath his feet.

All except for that once-a-week- routine when he was put back in that dark cardboard box and mailed to his next vacation spot.

And now, no worse for wear, Thumper the stuffed rabbit has arrived safely back home at the Kiddesville Day Care Center on Rita Road with lots of stories to tell the kids, if only he could talk.

Thumper's travels are the result of Super Providers, an internet support group of day care providers, searching for an activity they could do together.

The group, started by Julie Kincaid, consists of about 30 child care professionals throughout the country.  "Sometimes I don't know what I'd do without them," said Middle River day care owner, Patsy Woodward.  We vent to each other, share day care ideas like games and crafts.  We share our bad days and we share our good days."

Kiddiesville owner, Charlene Ridge, concurred, "we use it as therapy.  We talk about everything, even our husbands."

After Kincaid came up with the idea of mailing a stuffed animal around to each other, Ridge volunteered Thumper for the project, much to the chagrin of her small charges.  Thumper is a longtime and well-loved resident of the center and the kids weren't too sure about giving him away.

Ridge was able to convince them that Thumper would come back and that we would have lots of fun and make many new friends while he was away, plus Thumper promised to write.

After leaving Ridge's place, Thumper's first stop was to Woodward's center in Middle River.  He then flew -- via the US Postal Service, to centers in Virginia, Massachusetts, Iowa, Indiana, Texas, Colorado , California, Oregon and New York before returning to Kiddiesville.

At each stop, the last provider mailed postcards from Thumper to the other 11 centers.  On a postcard from Oregon, Thumper's message read "Barbara is making me do my postcards, but I would rather be out playing."

Thumper carried a journal and each host made entries to track his activities.

He was in New York for Thanksgiving and had dinner twice.  His journal entry of Friday, Nov 26th read, "I didn't get to do too much today except sleep off all the food I ate yesterday!"

Thumper spent one week at each stop.  When he arrived at each new place, he had gifts for the day care center such as video tapes, coloring cooks, crayons and stickers.  He also had a gift for the host provider.

Each day care center had a map with Thumper's route highlighted so the kids were able to track him.

"Two and 3 year olds don't have a great sense of geography and miles," said Ridge. "but they did understand that Thumper was very far away".

Excitement grew through the Kiddiesville gang as Thumper's return drew near.  When he arrived December 2, a welcome home party was thrown in his home, complete with ice cream and cake.

New day care providers have joined the internet group since Thumper's adventure began in June and want to do this project again so their kids can participate.

It looks like Thumper could be in for an encore performance.  It's a tough job to travel all over the country, but some bunny has to do it.

Thumper visiting all the daycare children. (click on thumbnail to enlarge)

Thumper horseback riding. (click on thumbnail to enlarge)