GrandKids director retires after 35 years
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For 35 years, Joyce Delancey has played an instrumental role in the life of every infant and toddler who passed through the doors of UCHealth GrandKids Child Care Center.
More than 350 children graduated from the preschool during her tenure, with many more having benefited from time spent under Delancey’s direction.
Before Delancey took the helm as director 20 years ago, she started out as a substitute, then became a teacher, assistant director and co-director.
She started out her career in elementary education but quickly realized it was the younger kiddos that she loved the most.
“They’re so much fun,” Delancey said. “Every day is different with them. You never know what to expect. They are so loving and so enjoy life.”
Her priority was to provide an environment with “lots of love and hugs, gentle guidance, play time and learning activities.” They also work diligently on social emotional skills and try to ensure their graduates are ready for kindergarten.
Delancey said she’s also loved watching many of her children become adults.
“It’s been so exciting to watch them grow up, and then come back and visit,” Delancey said.
Over her tenure she’s even hired five former students as teachers.
“It’s been remarkable to see that — to have teachers that I once taught,” Delancey added.
Delancey has also gotten to enroll the children of former students and maintain strong multi-generational relationships with families.
One of the most unique things about GrandKids is it’s the first child care center in Colorado to be housed in a long-term care facility.
GrandKids was first part of the Extended Care Center at Routt Memorial Hospital before transitioning to the Doak-Walker Care Center. Part of the co-habitation was the intergenerational program, which started in 1981 and provided a space for young children to spend time with elderly patients and residents.
“We worked really hard to keep the program going once Doak moved to Casey’s Pond,” Delancey said. “Because it is so important for both generations — for kids to see the aging process and not be afraid of it. And when the kids go to Casey’s Pond — it brightens their day.”
Today, the GrandKids kids travel to Casey’s Pond about three times a week, joining their older friends for lunch, music and art activities.
Under Delancey’s direction, the kids also get to explore their town, according to parent and nurse Jessica Baker. They go on hikes, have swimming and ski lessons, visit parks, construction sites amd the fire station and attend concerts.
“They literally go somewhere every day — it’s more like a summer camp,” Baker said about the GrandKids’ summer schedule.
Delancey often goes along on those outings to be an extra pair of hands and plays a big role in organizing all the logistics.
Another thing that sets GrandKids apart is its relationship to the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Baker has two children who graduated from GrandKids and one who is currently attending.
About 98 percent of the kids belong to hospital employees. And, there are about 30 employees still on a waiting list.
Moms and dads can easily pop in for a visit or join their children for lunch. For nursing moms it is especially convenient.
“It’s amazing to have your kids right next to you,” Baker said.
The nonprofit GrandKids’ partnership with the hospital also provides resource support in a business that is inherently difficult to make profitable. It also fosters a close-knit family, Delancey said.
Baker called Delancey an “asset” and said the GrandKids family is very sad to be losing her. She made it more like home but with structure, Baker said.
“She has an amazing ability to get to know children and families,” Baker added.
It is the kids and their families, as well as her staff, that Delancey said she will miss most. In retirement, she is looking forward to doing a lot of traveling, including to California to visit her own grandkids. But she will stay in Steamboat Springs and may return to GrandKids as a “Kiddie Cuddler” in her spare time.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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