Parents/Sponsors Share Pride and Gratitude for Milton Hershey School
Featuring Kelly and Bob Dunaway—Ayden’s grandparents, MHS parents/sponsors
In the spring of 2021, several outstanding Milton Hershey School parents/sponsors were honored with the 2021 Parent/Sponsor of the Year Award developed by The Family Gratitude Foundation in Honor of Gertrude Gurt. We interviewed award winners, Kelly and Bob Dunaway, to share their MHS experience.
What brought you and your child to MHS? Share your MHS story.
Kelly: We were aware of Milton Hershey School through advertisements and some folks who had attended the school. They spoke very highly of it and it’s always had a really great reputation.
Bob: Also, the person we purchased our house from went to Milton Hershey. The school has taken on a whole new meaning for us now as parents/sponsors.
Kelly: We asked Ayden’s parents if they would consider Milton Hershey School. They were struggling at that time. We brought them and Ayden here, and they both decided that it was worth the sacrifice to create a different future for him. We volunteered to be Ayden’s sponsors. We felt welcome from the very start. And the more we learned, the more appealing it became. We knew it would provide a quality education and a very safe place for him amidst all that was going on in his life at that time.
How has MHS supported you as a parent/sponsor and kept you informed?
Kelly: I think Milton Hershey School does a really great job at that. I think there’s a lot of options for us. The houseparents communicate with us all the time and us with them. The Parent Portal allows us to keep on top of the academic side. There are also the newsletters, the website, social media, and plenty of opportunities to come to campus.
Bob: I feel the same way. We try to give all our attention needed to Ayden and the school. It has a lot to offer and it’s there. It’s been something to see him grow. I can’t believe he’s a seventh-grader now—he started here in kindergarten. Time has never gone so fast. [Milton Hershey School] has changed our life like we had no idea. It really is all for the good.
What does it mean to you to be named a parent/sponsor of the year?
Kelly: We were shocked, humbled, and honored. There are so many awesome parents/sponsors here. We reach out to them through various means. It’s a really awesome community.
Bob: When we got the award, it was definitely unexpected. We did not get into this for that reason. We just know what we thought was right and then it presented itself. We were definitely overwhelmed. We do what we can. The support is there and I think you have to have it all the way around. We see what he gets here at the school and he needs that at home, too.
What are you most grateful for?
Kelly: Milton Hershey School staff—the houseparents, the teachers, all the faculty, the Health Center. All the folks who help support the students are amazing and the people we’ve met along the way are people who will be in his life forever. No doubt in our mind.
Bob: I agree. I can’t say enough about the school. I’m proud to talk about Milton Hershey outside of here—when I’m at work, out with friends. I talk about what Ayden’s doing, how we’re involved, and how we follow the school. We’re proud of it, and it’s a good feeling.
What is your best piece of advice for families looking at MHS?
Kelly: As grandparents, I think your instinct is to grab them up and take them in yourself. And I think you have to be able to see what the future holds—to be able to let go—to let them come in the first place. Milton Hershey does a really great job at educating us about the school and how to talk about it with others. And then ultimately, if you look at what’s available to them in the future and all the life experiences they’ll have here, it’s not anything even we as grandparents could provide for him. That’s a peace of mind.
Bob: Ayden’s an only child, but he has a ton of brothers here now. For anyone considering Milton Hershey, that’s something you get to look forward to—you have a family. You want your kids to be accepted. You want to make them feel good. And Milton Hershey does that. We see the rewards of the school and really appreciate that—it’s worth it. There’s something to be said for that.