GARY | Marquette Park Beach served as the scenic backdrop for Saturday’s celebration of family hosted by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
One of 30 regional events highlighting the organization’s 30th anniversary, the all-day picnic and beach party brought together former and present employees, members of boards from the tourism bureau’s beginnings through today and 14 “South Shore Babies” each wearing a baby blue T-shirt.
These children of staff members have been cared for in the SSCVA’s in-office child care program initiated 16 years ago. They range in age from 16 years to 1 month old.
“Baby 1” Carolyn Hricik traveled from Connecticut to join the celebration. The 16-year old is the daughter of former Crown Point resident Cathy Hricik, who served as secretary to then-executive director Speros A. Batistatos and was vice president of operations when her family moved to the East Coast in 2000.
“It’s almost like a blast from the past, from pictures my mom has showed me. I remember Uncle Speros. That’s what I call him. And to see how far (the organization) has come,” Carolyn said. “It’s cool to be the first of something.”
During a photo session on the beach with an enormous beach ball, Carolyn Hricik held “Baby 14,” Oliver Gladstone, of Crown Point, whose mother is SSCVA’s director of community and public relations Nicki Mackowski Gladstone.
As Carolyn and Batistatos walked down to the beach from the picnic tent, he told the teenager that she made him cry when she was just 7 years old.
“We were walking and I called you ‘baby girl.’ Then I apologized and you stopped and said ‘You can call me baby girl any time’,” said the SSCVA president and CEO said who has been the authority’s fourth and sixth leader during its history.
A special presentation at the event honored Crown Point resident Katie Holderby, the departing SSCVA executive vice president who has been with the organization for most of the past 20 years.
Each SSCVA employee presented Holderby with a Pandora charm signifying her many contributions to the organization.
Holderby’s 15-year old daughter, Reagan, was the second “baby” to be part of the in-office child care program.
“This is what makes us the best is our employees. We have formed a family,” said Batistatos. “More than ever I am humbled to be part of this organization, a part of them.”