Family Weekend had them singing, dancing for joy

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

Families reuniting at Family Weekend had a multitude of activities to enjoy, but the main thing was just spending time together. (Photo by Elizabeth Tinajero)

A record-setting crowd of 7,050 who registered for Family Weekend was treated to music, food, games, worship and beautiful Phoenix weather Friday through Sunday on the Grand Canyon University campus. But, really, the treat was seeing their loved ones again.

Parents carrying GCU tote bags and wearing purple T-shirts walked side-by-side with sons and daughters, grandparents and aunts and siblings as their students described life on campus six weeks into the semester.

“Everyone here has either a scooter, skateboard or a bike,” a son told his mother.

Another son left his mother off at the Student Union as he tended to tasks on Friday. She kissed him and said, “I love you.”

“Love you, Mom.”

Love was in the air all weekend at guided campus tours, soccer games or in contests such as Family Feud as GCU put out the welcome mat for family members.

Ann Morris (right) shares the microphone with daughter Ambrosia, a GCU student, and the stage with daughter Autumn during Family Weekend.

There was really some love in the Thunderground on Friday when junior Ambrosia Morris turned to her mother and told her they were going up on stage to karaoke.

“I told her she didn’t have a choice,” Ambrosia said.

Her mom, Ann Morris, came all the way from Bloomington, Ind., to support her daughter and see how she was doing with another daughter, Autumn, 16. So why not sing? The three hit the stage and belted out Toto’s “Africa”: “Gonna take some time to do the things we never do (ohh, ohh).

Did they ever.

“We sing better in the car,” mom said.

“Usually, we have the harmony down on that,” daughter said.

GCU student Ryan Miller bought younger sister Megan lunch because he was so happy she came to Family Weekend.

It was all about reconnecting, even if it was to ‘80s songs that parents love.

Younger siblings got in the act, too. Megan Miller was all in on the contest of find and photograph campus landmarks and enter them in an app to try to win her way into the Thunder Bolt Drawing.

It was a family exercise in the middle of a Friday afternoon as grandparents Harold and Inez Slick from Anaheim, Calif., and mom Tresa Miller of Yorba Linda, Calif., made their way around campus without the host of honor, student Ryan Miller.

He was attending to his education duties.

“He’s being responsible,” grandma said.

“It’s the character here,” grandpa added.

Tresa said it was Ryan’s first time being away from family. When they arrived, he was very happy his little sister came along.

“He bought her lunch,” Tresa said. “He was excited about that.”

Megan, a sixth grader, was still beaming from her brother’s kindness, sipping on her beverage.

Sophomore Kassidy Buchanan leads the way as the flash mob does the Macarena.

Later Friday, before the evening men’s soccer game, an unusual event occurred, seemingly out of thin air, right in front of the Student Union.

Nearly 20 purple-shirted volunteers and members of the Welcome Programs, who organized the growing Family Weekend event, pulled out all the stops in a flash mob that had visitors strolling down the Promenade stopped in their tracks.

The group began a choreographed dance that involved arm shaking, shimmying down to the ground, Macarena-style movements, even the exhausting-looking one-leg-backward kick called the Shoot dance.

In the middle of it all, leading the circle of gyration, was Kassidy Buchanan. The sophomore Resident Assistant was first spotted performing these maneuvers during Welcome Week.

“When I saw her do it, I said, ‘Who are you? I need you.’ And she was like, 'OK,' ” said Robyn Hord, GCU’s Parent and Family Programs Coordinator.

Bruce, Jules and Carter Moody (left to right) took a family photo with GCU student and son Landon on Family Weekend.

“She hooked me into this,” a breathless Buchanan said after the dance, which she did every day of the summer as a camp counselor.

That kind of fun was infectious through the weekend.

The sunny and pleasant Saturday campus scene was heartwarming. Family members walked arm-and-arm through campus, their physical traits often unmistakably similar as they took photographs in front of the giant GCU letters at the Lope Shop.

Freshman Alexa Harvey smiled when she said she looked just like her mom while taking a photo.

“I’m her aunt,” said Diane Bruce.

“It makes sense -- she is my mom’s sister,” said Harvey, a freshman from Colorado.

Others handed phones to passing people to take family photos – one of freshman Landon Moody and brother Carter with parents Jules and Bruce Moody, who had just arrived from Portland, Ore., and wanted that documenting photo first thing.

GCU President Brian Mueller speaks at Chapel on Saturday morning. (Photo by Elizabeth Tinajero)

“It’s good to see you again,” Landon told his parents afterward.

He had planned to show them the Esports complex where he competes -- after he told them he loves it here because of the cost, the friendly students and the campus that “is like a resort.”

The crowd filed toward GCU Arena for doughnuts and Chapel worship, a time-honored marriage made in heaven. The crowd listened to President Brian Mueller pray and tell the story of inspiration from the Bible that he equates with what has emerged around him in the past decade at GCU.

The renewal of GCU and a troubled section of the city, he said, sets an example of what Christians can do, following the examples of Nehemiah and Jesus. “Being able to leave places of comfort and being able to leave where you are and go to dark places that need help, to bring renewal and bring restoration, is very, very powerful. It’s the most powerful witness.”

Student Rachael Meley (right) and mom April shared smiles at Chapel.

He looked out to the large crowd bathed in the glow of Arena stage lights and said he felt lucky.

“The older I get the more I realize if you were lucky enough to be raised in a family where there is a father who loves the mother and mother who loves the father and they love the children, that is the biggest blessing you can have as a human being,” he said.

“I see so much of that this weekend.”

It was easy to see -- clear at the back of the Arena, where daughter Rachael Meley was helping mother April Meley into her seat, asking her if she needed anything.

Both have red hair. They sang enthusiastically and clapped hands to praise songs.

April said she finally got to witness first hand all that her daughter had told her about GCU. She was delighted.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


Related content:

GCU Today: A downpour of love on Family Weekend

GCU Today: Thousands descend for jam-packed Family Weekend


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