Rocky Teachers and What Adopt A Family Means to Them



Adopt A Family gifts range from cleaning supplies, toys, clothes, and food–all donated by the Rocky students, teachers, and the community.

It’s the Christmas season once again Rocky, and that means Adopt A Family is back!

Every year, homerooms are assigned families from the Fort Collins community. They are recommended by social workers, teachers, counselors, and day care centers serving the Rocky feeder schools. Homerooms bring their families food, cleaning supplies, and presents and wrap them all up to create a happy holiday.

“A team needs something that’s bigger than them for us all to work together on,” Glenn Gainley said. Gainley has been at Rocky since 1997. “I think that thing at Rocky is Adopt A Family.” 

AAF started back in 1996 as a Peers project created by a Rocky student, making this its 23rd year. In 2017, Rocky adopted 80 families, about 400 people. According to the data for 2018 the school donates $72,000 on average in cash, gift cards, and presents. 

“[AAF] Drives so much of our culture. Our giving culture, our humility culture, and we get so many benefits from that,” Gainley said. “I think the school would be a different place if it wasn’t for Adopt A Family. I think it really pulls us all together every single year.” 

I think it’s a really good opportunity for people to see that, especially this time of year, there’s bigger things. There’s bigger things than just us.

— Larissa Schendel

“I remember going to a home that was basically, the whole home was one room,” Stephanie Carson said about her experience delivering AAF things to families. Carson has been a Spanish teacher at Rocky since 2000. “And bringing in box after box after box . . . pretty much filling the whole home with boxes. And the kids jumping up and down on the beds as we came in with stuff–they were just so excited to see all the things we were bringing. I think sometimes when you’re here at school and you see all the boxes fill up that’s exciting and everything, but it’s really infectious when you see the actual families receive their things.”

“The first time I ever experienced the Saturday, the actual ‘Best Day to be a Lobo’ day, that was the best for me,” Kari Bridenbaugh said. The Saturday is full of activities for kids – all put on by the Rocky community. Bridenbaugh has taught French at Rocky since 2003 and witnessed several AAF events. 

According to English teacher Larissa Schendel and Gainley, the original AAF was much less organized with only a few homerooms. Modern AAF has upwards of 70 families, with a streamlined system for getting families their gifts. 

“I think it’s incredibly important,” Schendel said. She has been teaching at Rocky for 17 years, including a year where she student-taught at Rocky. “Because I think we live in a society where a lot of people are very much about ‘me, me, me,’ and material things. I think this is a really great opportunity for everyone–not just students, but teachers. I mean, my own children get involved in Adopt A Family. I think it’s a really good opportunity for people to see that, especially this time of year, there’s bigger things. There’s bigger things than just us.”

Adopt a Family will conclude this week and families will receive their boxes on Saturday.