By Linda Hasecke
On our way back to Indiana from visiting our family in Arlington, VA we decided to try to find the Red Horse Inn in Frederick, MD, and the Tea Room at Gambrill State Park. Why? Because they were the sites of the first national gatherings of CdLS families in the very early 1980s. Reaching Out had begun in 1977 and was finding more families. Sue Anthony, the writer of the newsletter and mom to Kathy with CdLS, put the word out through Exceptional Parent magazine that several DC families were organizing a picnic for any family who wanted to come. They found the Red Horse Inn willing to set aside rooms for overnight stays. It was a fun, quirky motel which, as we discovered, is now a Comfort Inn, but it still has its horses!!
As families gathered, they ate at the restaurant by the Inn, and the story goes that the waitress looked at all the families, none resembling each other, but each with one child who looked a lot like a child in another family, and asked: “Is this some kind of family reunion?” Well, yes, it was!!
Into the night, we’d sit out in the halls with other families, getting each other’s suggestions, support, and understanding. On the day of the gathering, we went to the mountaintop ( literally and figuratively) in Gambrill State Park to a “Tea Room” that had been built by the CCC during the Depression. It was a sturdy stone building with a fireplace situated in a wooded area overlooking the valley below. There, we talked and talked and talked with other families. We got to see Jindi Van Buren walking, which was amazing since most of the rest of us had kids who weren’t walking and maybe weren’t sitting up yet.
The highlight of the day was having Dr Laird Jackson and researcher Marie Barr take each family and CdLS child out to a picnic table, where they took notes, answered questions, and paid attention to us!!!! It was wonderful.
I believe these picnics took place in 1981- 83. We went in 1982 and 83, taking grandmothers with us each time so they could learn, too. One of the greatest joys came from making lifelong friends with other families around the country. This was a very good thing for the brothers and sisters of our CdLS kids, too.
I believe it was in 1981 when families decided to officially become the Cornelia de Lange Foundation. Frank and Julie Mairano volunteered to put a phone and computer in Frank’s business office so that there would be one central number to call. They kept it all going and expanded to include some of us who volunteered to contact people in our areas when someone called the Foundation and wanted to talk to another parent.
All of this started while on a mountaintop in a tea room at Gambrill State Park. Here are pictures of these special places as they appear in 2023.