Our Life Purpose
By Sarah Donaher, a houseparent
Before I met my husband Terry, I had never heard of Milton Hershey School. I knew of Hershey’s chocolate, but because I didn’t grow up in this area, that was about it. I remember the first time I came to MHS with Terry for Homecoming before we worked here. I was blown away that it was not only a school, but a home.
At our wedding, we didn’t have a lot of Terry’s actual family members attend—we had his Milton Hershey School family. His houseparents. His relief houseparents. His brothers from the student home.
The family dynamic was amazing to me. I saw how his MHS family worked in his life and the changes it made for him.
I had always worked with kids and worked in schools on the academic side before coming to MHS. Sometimes, it was difficult because I would get kids during the day, but there were so many requirements that had to be fulfilled. There wasn’t much time for that relationship piece.
Coming to MHS to become a houseparent with Terry has really allowed me to continue to do the work I love, but make it more about family. We live with these students, and we always say, “Even on your hardest day, we still care about you.” If they’re having a tough day and they need a hug, we still care no matter what. It’s amazing to see four- and five-year-olds realize that.
Even if they haven’t made the best choices, we talk about how they can learn from their mistakes. Mistakes are a good thing because we can learn from them and make changes the next time.
I think it’s really important for our kids to see that even when they make mistakes, they’re still valued.
Sarah Donaher and her husband Terry, an MHS alumnus, are houseparents in the Elementary Division. They also have two children.