Our Annual Favorite Older Friend Essay Contest

Recently, Wesley Gardens has participated in our annual Favorite Older Friend Essay Contest for 5th graders. Congratulations to our first place winner, Colin Gottko from St. Louis School. To read our contestant's essays, click on any of the links below.

Colin Gottko

"Finally I’m There"

Colin Gottko, 1st place winner

St. Louis School, Teacher: Mrs. Martin

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Finally we pull into his driveway. I can already feel the excitement rushing up my spine. It’s the day of my sleepover at Papa’s house. That’s what I call my grandpa. I ring the doorbell. He opens up the door wearing his typical plaid shirt, khakis, and glasses. He greets me. I say hello, anxious to spend quality time with him.

So, you’re thinking “big deal”. Well, my Papa is a “big deal”. I have spent more days with my Papa than I can count. After I was born my mom went back to work, and Papa took on the role of babysitter extraordinaire. He has spent his retirement caring for me as a baby, toddler, preschooler, and now as a grade schooler. Even when mom was home for three years when my little brother was born, Papa still was always near.

Papa always has interesting information to share. He reads a lot. When he reads something he thinks I would like to know he shares it with me. Usually he is reading about the Navy. He entered the Navy out of high school. He was stationed on a battleship and worked on fixing airplanes. He likes to share tales of these days with me and I like to listen.

There isn’t anything that Papa wouldn’t do for me or my family. Papa drives me places I need to be. He watches me play soccer, lacrosse, and basketball, and comes to any school event I participate in.

I have been to Disney World 5 times, and Papa is always there. He took me to Sesame Place, Virginia, The North Pole, and Watertown. He was with me for my first train ride and first plane ride. And it isn’t always just big things, sometimes it’s just when he takes me for ice cream after school that show me how much he loves me.

The really “big deal” is how much I love him!

Judith Lanahan

"Back to the ‘Ranch’"

Judith Lanahan, 2nd place

St. Louis School, Teacher: Mrs. Martin

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You know to never judge a book by its cover. It’s the same with my Nonno. You would have to look past the gray hair, big glasses, and funky mustache. Nonno is awesome, from his Texan talk to love for the outdoors.

For one, Nonno is a great cook. He is Italian, which is why we call him “Nonno.” Every time we go to his house, Nonno spoils us with phenomenal food, and will sometimes give my siblings and me pieces of candy (not altogether known about).

Nonno has a great sense of humor. Not only does he use Texan expressions like “I’m headin’ back to the Ranch” (meaning his house), but he tells funny stories like “The Fastest Man Alive and Surrounded by the Enemy.” I never get tired of listening to his countless stories and adventures.

When I’m with Nonno, we both love to go outside and sit by his campfire. Together we try to find the big dipper or maybe roast marshmallows. Sometimes, he’ll say, “I hear the willy owl” then imitate the noise, just to be funny. Nonno loves the outdoors and science, so he loves taking my siblings and me on hikes or to the Rochester Museum of Science.

Nonno is also always full of advice. Whenever I play a sport or do something new, he will give me tips and lessons on how to do things better because he loves me. It’s better than a coach because he is my grandpa and favorite older friend.

My Nonno is filled with love, hugs, humor, advice and knowledge. He is the best Nonno in the world, and that is why I will always look forward to going “back to the Ranch.”

Emma Gottko

"My Favorite Older Friend"

Emma Gottko, 3rd place

St. Louis School, Teacher: Mrs. Martin

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Filled with love, patience, and kindness my Nana has always been by my side. And I mean always! She was there the day I was born and has been there ever since, giving me courage, faith, guidance, and support.

Nana is a great listener. When I need advice, Nana listens carefully, and advises wisely. When I have good news to share, she rejoices with me. When I need an ear and shoulder to cry on, she calms me down with her soothing voice and warm hugs and kisses.

Nana is a great cook. When I was little she and I put together an entire tea for my family, complete with handmade invitations. Nana is always inviting me over to bake and cook with her. This is the only way to cook like Nana, because she doesn’t have recipes written down to share. In the summer we pick berries and make jam. In the fall we cook chili, and in the winter it’s fudge making time, and spring is anyone’s guess.

Cooking is not her only talent. She is the family seamstress. You’ve got a hole, she’ll fix it! You need a hem, she can do that too. She has made all her grandchildren pillows. And when I was only 2 years old she made me a pink cape to go along with my sleeping beauty costume, for my first trip to Disney World. Now that I am older she helps me with my dance costumes. Her sewing machine might actually be older than she is, but she still does what she can with it.

My Nana is wonderful! I have so many special memories of her and the many moments we have shared together. There isn’t an event in my life that Nana hasn’t been there for, holding my hand, pushing me forward, or catching my fall. She has been there for me my entire life by my side and I know she will always be by my side forever. I love you Nana!!!

Megan Coloney

"A Favorite Older Friend"

Megan Coloney, Outstanding Achievement

Village Elementary School, Teacher: Miss Craney

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My favorite older friend was more than a friend, he was my Grandpa and my playmate. His name was Jim VanRoo. I remember the good times that we shared. He always had a little Christmas tree for all of us grandchildren to decorate by ourselves. We would pick apples from the trees in his yard, pick flowers, go to the park, and play with his dogs. I never really cared what we did, as long as I was with him. He loved fishing and hunting. When he was forced to retire from Kodak, he went back to school to become a Vet Technician. He had English Springer Spaniels that he had bred and we all loved them very much. We still have the youngest, Meaghan, who he named after me. When I want to feel close to him, I can close my eyes and dream about him, or sometimes I just hug Meaghan.

We were like peas in a pod; you could never break our bond. One day in 2007, that changed. I was very little so I didn’t quite understand what was happening. I knew he was sick and giggled when he lost his hair. Even then, he was tired a lot but always had a hug and smiles for me. He passed away right before Christmas. I remember giving him a hug; I wasn’t scared because I knew he had gone to heaven. I knew he wasn’t sick anymore. I miss him and cry sometimes but I know he watches over me and my family and is with us in our hearts. My Papa Jim will always be my friend and my hero. I will always have my memories to make me smile because of all the things he gave me in my heart.

Ethan Drew

"My First Girlfriend"

Ethan Drew, Outstanding Achievement

Allen Creek School, Teacher: Mrs. Jameson Kellogg

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As we get out of the cramped car, we sprint up the walkway, hoping to be the one to ring her doorbell. As I’m getting too old for this, my sister runs past my brother and me. When she rings the bell, we also shout “It’s us, Auntie Dawn!” not wanting to break the ritual that has been upheld for nine years. We wait for a second and then she opens the door, her eyes bright with happiness as she beckons us in. She grabs me, the eldest, for a hug. She’s a long hugger, but so am I. After a wonderful, undisturbed fifteen seconds, all I focus on is how forty minutes in the car was worth it.

“How’s my boyfriend?” she always asks “You aren’t two-timing me, are you?” I feel my face turn in to a bright shade of red, but I always respond “Not yet.”

Auntie Dawn isn’t my aunt, but she was the first one to know that mom was pregnant with my little brother, therefore giving her rights to the title “Auntie.”

When mom says “Time to go to Auntie Dawn’s,” the thing that first comes to mind is the puzzle. Every time we come over, she always has a thousand piece puzzle out. Ever since I was two, I’d always try to put some pieces together. Every time I did get a piece to the puzzle, I’d charge into the room she was in and shout ‘I GOT A PIECE IN THE PUZZLE!!!”

She always bangs out a happy tune on the piano. When I was little, I’d try to match her, but now I don’t bother, knowing she’d always play better.

If I get married, and move away, I will always remember in my heart that Auntie Dawn was my first girlfriend.

Carly Hoy

"Sunny Side Up"

Carly Hoy, Outstanding Achievement

Allen Creek School, Teacher: Mrs. Jameson Kellogg/Mrs. Matthews

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The cold bites my nose and ears, especially my legs. I run to the bright red convertible, anxious for its warmth. Gran runs with me and as I slam into the front seat, I await something else, a delicious dinner. It could be anything, salad, chicken or pancakes, that’s for me to decide. I swing my legs onto the floor and toss my tennis racket into the backseat. Gran reminds me not to tell my mom that I rode in the front seat, or that I got lemonade at the snack bar. Then I remind her not to tell my brothers that I would have pancakes for dinner, pancakes and eggs, sunny side up. Don’t tell my mom, but once, gran let me have a big bowl of popcorn and watch a movie.

As we drive, Gran asks me how my day was, and what I’m doing in school. I give her a full-detail report on everything, and a very thorough description of all the books I’m reading. This would annoy my brother, friends, and even my parents, but Gran always has time for me. After all, I’m her favorite granddaughter.

Ever since I was born, Gran has been there for me. Even when I lived in Chicago, she sent me her love. When I began to learn to talk, I couldn’t say “grandma”, so Gran took its place. Having a name that discerns her from every other grandmother only adds to our love.

Even though she is older, don’t underestimate Gran. She plays squash, takes me to tennis lessons and cooks a sumptuous Sunday dinner every week. Plus, she always finds time for my brothers and me. Gran is definitely awesome. But even the best of us can’t overcome everything. Gran battles cancer, but her medications are helping and so is the love that she shares with my family.

Gran and I have a special bond. She doesn’t have to cook dinner or help out with events. She doesn’t have to always be there. Gran does these because she loves me and my family. She always has a smile on her and always looks at things sunny side up.

Elise McCamant

"Marvelous Mimi"

Elise McCamant, Outstanding Achievement

Allen Creek School, Teacher: Mrs. Jameson Kellogg

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I run up the front steps and barge into the house. As always the air is alive with the sweet, warm scent of something delicious roasting in the oven.

But best of all, Mimi is there waiting for me, as she is every Friday when we go to her house. Her house is just two away from ours, and we often eat dinner with her and grandpa.

Mimi has always been there for me. When my sisters were born, Mimi was the one who babysat me. When my pet died she comforted me.

Mimi also has lots of patience. Mimi taught me how to play tennis, which I’ll admit takes a whole lot of patience. We would go outside and bounce tennis balls back and forth or off the garage and laugh together when my dog tried to chase the balls that had gone off in the wrong direction.

When she is cooking she makes sure that everyone gets a chance to help even when the “help” probably complicates the cooking.

I have also heard the story of the time we tried to make a cake together. I was just three years old when Lydia was born. Mimi decided that we should make a welcome home cake for when Lydia came home from the hospital. But, you know how little kids are. Mimi put in the flour and I switched the mixer on high. Flour flew everywhere. Apparently though, Mimi just hugged me and laughed.

Mimi always tells me to eat my bread crust because, “It will make your hair curl”. We both know that it won’t actually work but, it’s a bit of a joke between us and it always makes me laugh. When Mimi was a child her mother told her the same thing. All though she obediently ate her crust her gray hair is still straight. My sisters never understand this joke but I do.

Mimi’s love reaches out to us all. She is and always will be my favorite older friend.

Henry Qin

"A Special Lunch Aide"

Henry Qin, Outstanding Achievement

Allen Creek School, Teacher: Mrs. Jameson Kellogg/Mrs. Moore

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If you were looking for someone that was kind, had a good sense of humor and fair, you should’ve met Grandpa, one of our school’s lunch aides and playground aide. Grandpa was a good name for us to call him because he actually acted like a grandpa.

Every recess and lunch time, my friends and I looked forward to talking and playing with Grandpa. He told these jokes that made us laugh. He also made up a name for my friends and me. He called us the Terribles. We thought that the Terribles was a great name. He sure had a great sense of humor.

Grandpa would do anything if you asked him. Once at recess we asked him to play “4 Square” with us and he did. But it took a while to explain it. He also walked around the cafeteria volunteering to slice anyone’s apple. We never had to ask, he just did it. That is why Grandpa was such a kind and nice lunch aide.

Grandpa was also very fair. He divided the soccer teams equally. He did it by putting some excellent players on one team and the other excellent players other team. During problems, Grandpa always said, “Let’s share the ball and take turns,” or “cooperate and play nicely.”

Grandpa was really like a real grandpa since he was kind, had a good sense of humor and fair. Even though he passed away this year, he is always in my mind and I always think about him.

Emily Wilmarth

"My Best Older Friend"

Emily Wilmarth, Outstanding Achievement

Jefferson Road School, Teacher: Ms. Long

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I have a lot of friends but believe it or not one of my best friends is my Grandma Lynn. She is a great friend and has inspired me so much. She has also been a great role model for me and my family.

She is very special to me because when I was a baby she would babysit me every Monday, so I have gotten to know her very well. She has inspired me to always give back. On my tenth birthday she gave me one-hundred dollars to give to any charity of my choice. I gave the money to the front desk of Lolly Pop Farm and to see their smile on their face really made my day.

She has been a great role model to be because she has shown me to always be active. My Grandma is 62 years old and she is one of the most active people I have ever met. My Grandma skis and bikes but to show her passion for skiing she and my Grandpa traveled to Switzerland and skied there for two weeks. My Grandma has given up many things to make me and my family happy. She is willing to take my friends and pay for them when we go places, she takes us swimming during the summer, she takes us to get ice cream on hot days and she lets us stay up late after our bed time. My Grandma can also be silly and serious (but mostly silly.)

My Grandma has inspired me to follow my dreams and not to back down, she has inspired me to be a leader and not a follower, she has inspired me to dig the path to victory and always be yourself. My Grandma IS my best friend!

Ella Rose Zombek

"My Great Auntie"

Ella Rose Zombek, Outstanding Achievement

Jefferson Road School, Teacher: Ms. Long

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I smile every time I open a birthday card from my Auntie Tricia because it makes me feel so loved. My Auntie Tricia is amazing and thoughtful because she never ever forgets anyone in my family’s birthdays or anniversaries! She sends cards out to us all which is incredible considering that my family is extremely large.

One of my favorite things about Auntie Tricia is that she is a terrific nurse in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Being a nurse tells a lot about her kind, caring, and patient personality. I think it is cool that she has a job that she loves and is magnificent at.

Thanksgiving is marvelous because it is at my Auntie Tricia’s house. I love being there with her and my family because her home is always welcoming, wonderful and warm. My Auntie Tricia is such a stupendous cook. I believe that you can taste her love in the food (her mashed potatoes are the best). It is an awesome experience to taste her delicious foods and be around her cheerful ways. She enjoys cooking and giving so much, that when we visit her, she always makes our favorite foods.

I admire my Auntie Tricia for many reasons, but mostly because of her positive attitude and how she lives her life. She never complains, treats herself and others with kindness, always remembers her loved ones, and looks at the bright side of things. These reasons are why she is one of my favorite people on the planet earth.