WATCH: Kids get gift after helping couple 60 years after racist incident

by jhang

The “phenomenal” job Mercer County students did to help a couple have the honeymoon they were denied 60 years ago because they were black have been rewarded themselves.

Classmates from Bear Tavern Elementary School in Hopewell Township and their families are being treated to a Poconos resort vacation all because of their efforts to right what they saw as wrong committed at a time when segregation was still the norm.

This is “a story that restores our faith in humanity,” said Steve Harvey, host of the daytime talk show, “Steve.”

It was on Harvey’s show Tuesday that a segment highlighted the story of The Rev. Gilbert Caldwell and his wife Grace of Asbury Park and their encounter with racism in a northern vacation spot.

But thanks to efforts of the students decades later, the Caldwells were able to fulfill and dream and, in turn, the schoolchildren were recognized in an extraordinary way, proving taking a stand for what is right can reap them rewards.

The Caldwells visited the Bear Tavern Elementary School on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January 2017 where they were part of a black history assembly. They told of working with King and their efforts in the Deep South to overcome racial injustice.

But it was one of the Caldwells’ personal stories that especially touched the students — how they had traveled in 1957 from their then-home in North Carolina to the Mount Airy Lodge in the Pennsylvania Poconos for their honeymoon and were turned away because they were black.

Hearing this story, the fifth-graders felt they needed to do something.

“This assembly certainly moved a lot of people,” said fifth-grade teacher Christina Virtucio. “What stood out was the piece about the honeymoon.

“They couldn’t even understand how anyone could treat someone like that because of the color of their skin.”

What they should do soon became part of their curriculum. Numerous discussions and decisions took place and they decided they needed to right a wrong — through writing.

They found out the Mount Airy Lodge was long closed so the class wrote individual letters to the Mount Airy Casino Resort — a Poconos vacation spot that has no connection to the hotel that turned away the Caldwells.

One of those letters so touched management at Mount Airy Casino Resort the Caldwells were given a free stay there in December and finally enjoyed a proper honeymoon in Pennsylvania’s Poconos.

On Tuesday’s “Steve” show, the Caldwells appeared with Steve Harvey who told their story and how the how the Bear Tavern students, who joined in via Skype, had changed the couple’s life.

“I think it’s absolutely phenomenal what you young people did,” Harvey told the students.

“I don’t know if you understand this, but you really made a super stance here. You put a mark in America that needed to be shown up. For you all to write these letters, that’s crazy good. I’ve got to tell you that. That’s just crazy good.”

Their reward then came. Harvey announced each of the 30 students involved in the letter-writing campaign their parents would be receiving a two-night stay at the Great Wolf Lodge, also a Poconos resort. Teacher Virtucio is included.

The students back at Bear Tavern erupted in cheers.

“I’m just incredibly proud of the students and their worth ethic, empathy and compassion,” Virtucio said.

Bear Tavern Elementary School Principal Christopher Turnbull said he was impressed how the class members reacted to this real-world situation.

“One thing we talk about every day is that we, as individuals and as a group, have the ability to impact our community and change other peoples’ perception of what is possible,” he said.

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