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‘Happy Birthday, President!’ Behind the scenes

By Richie Ann Ashcraft

As you may have read in Bob Silbernagel's Friday column, "Happy Birthday, President! Leaders provide a yearlong project for one Grand Valley youngster," Bob and his wife Judy came to our house for dinner to help celebrate President's Day.

Before they arrived, we decorated with our 4th of July tablecloth and made a tissue paper chandelier. Then, we decided to make the Sibernagels some clever presidential disguises. We used paper plates, star stickers, construction paper, and cotton balls to make fun masks like this one. 

As a guests of honor, Bob got to be Abe.


And Judy was Martha Washington

The boys were really, really excited to have company. Soren did a very grown up job of discussing presidents and his project with Bob.

But then there were his little brothers.

They didn't mind their manners over our fish dinner. They tried repeatedly to pull Bob's attention away from Soren and on to them using every which way of kid method they could think of. They jumped on him. They told jokes about farts and diapers. They shot him with Nerf guns.

And behind the camera, my face got redder and redder. Despite my best efforts, nothing could make them act right in front of our company.

You can see and hear it yourself in this video:

But, luckily, Bob and Judy were good sports. They like kids and they weren't offended by their poopy butt talk or other hijinks. It actually made them laugh.

And, then join in. Bob practiced kid flips, chased them around the house, and riled them all up before departing just like any good grandpa would.

Despite his rude introduction to the crazy Ashcraft house, Bob wrote the article about Soren which is hanging on the Wall of Fame at his school. It's something that Soren is proud of.

Writing an article may seem like a simple thing to a reporter, but for the 8-year-old kid who was recognized for doing something good, it means all the world to him. Who knows — it might mean the difference between a smart kid or a dumb kid, a good one or a bad one, in the long run.

Thanks Bob for honoring Soren with your time and writing. You're always welcome to dinner  at the Ashcrafts— if you dare!


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Having worked with Bob for 10 years, I can honestly say he’s one of the best people I know. I loved his story about Soren and his presidential birthday project. I’m so happy Bob and Soren are getting much deserved attention!

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