Patriotic ‘Walk in the Woods’ Celebrates Freedom, Wellness

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To honor the adoption of the American flag, students and faculty of Barnum Woods Elementary School joined local officials and community members for a Flag Day ceremony on June 14.

Dressed in red, white and blue, the students gathered on the school’s front field under sunny skies for the Wednesday ceremony. The U.S. Navy Color Guard raised the flag as members of the fifth-grade band and chorus performed patriotic songs. The ceremony was held prior to the school’s wellness walk, which was dedicated to Barnum Woods physical education teacher Donald Whearty and first-grade teacher Kristine Waters, both of whom are retiring.

Whearty and Waters took the podium to share what the American flag means to them and offer poignant remarks about their time at the school.

“Boys and girls, as I retire from Barnum Woods, I only ask that you strive to do your best, be kind, smile, live by the Golden Rule and know that I am the luckiest person to have been able to teach all of you,” said Whearty. “I will miss you all.” Acknowledging the special day, he noted that the flag is a symbol of freedom to live and become whomever one wants to be.

Waters, a 26-year veteran of the school, reminisced about her earliest memories of the American flag on a shelf in her home and how her grandparents had immigrated to the United States.

“I hope my children remember what I tried to teach them about respecting each other’s differences, treating each other well and being a good citizen at school as well as in the community,” she said.

Following their remarks, Nassau County Legislator Kevan Abrahams thanked the Barnum Woods community and lauded its wellness initiative.

“I am happy to be here with you today — one, to celebrate Flag Day and show patriotism to our country, and two, to be a part of this walk, because walking and exercising strengthens our heart and enables us to live much longer lives,” he said.

Continuing the festivities, recently retired Town of Hempstead Councilman Gary Hudes received a certificate of recognition from Nassau County Legislator Dennis Dunne on behalf of Town Supervisor Anthony Santino. Hudes also accepted the “Building a Better Barnum” plaque from school Principal Gregory Bottari for his tireless dedication to the Barnum Woods community.

“It has been my pleasure to represent this community and to help thousands of families for 17 years,” said Hudes. “Remember, because of what that flag represents, you can be anything you want to be and you can do anything you want to do.”

The ceremony ended with the wellness walk, dubbed “Whearty-Water’s Walk in the Woods.” Waving miniature American flags, the school community embarked on a journey through the neighborhood while sporting hats, signs and banners to promote an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits.