12 Things to Do in Havertown this Holiday Season

Although it feels like we were just sitting on the beach, it’s getting hard to deny: winter is coming.

Before we hibernate, we have some merry-making to do. Here are some ideas and events to get you in the spirit right here at home. Get those calendars out and make some plans. It’s the busiest most wonderful time of the year, after all!

Note: This list was updated on 11/20/18. Keep checking back for new additions!

1. Attend a Holiday Craft Fair

Both Lynnewood and Manoa Elementary Schools will be hosting holiday markets featuring local vendors, artists, and crafters. Get some shopping done while supporting our schools…way to start the holiday season with a win!

Lynnewood Holiday Shopping Extravaganza: Saturday, November 18th, 11 a.m – 3 p.m. at Lynnewood Elementary School (1400 Lawrence Road, Havertown)
Featuring over 40 vendors, face painting, gift basket raffle, Create-A-Gift options for kids, and pizza by Havertown’s own Hoopty’s PizzaClick here for more info.

Manoa Holiday Fair: Saturday, December 1st, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Manoa Elemetary School (201 S. Manoa Road, Havertown)
A wide variety of local vendors, including handmade crafts and jewelery, baked goods, skin care, and more.  Click here for more info.

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Handmade ornament by The House on 10th, a local artist who will be selling items at the Manoa Holiday Fair.


2. Make Your Own Menorah

menorahGet ready to celebrate the festival of lights! Chabad of Delaware County will host a menorah making workshop at Lowe’s (116 W. Township Line Road, Havertown) on Sunday, November 18th from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Enjoy some Chanukah refreshments after your hard work.

Space is limited and children must be accompanied by an adult. RSVP required: rikki@jewishdelco.org
Click here for more information.

3. Holiday House Tour

The Haverford Township Historical Society will present its 11th Annual Holiday House Tour, featuring seven local homes of different architectural styles. This is a self-guided tour. Round up some friends and make an afternoon of it! Afterwards, stop in to Town Tap, where you will receive a 10% discount on your bill by showing a House Tour brochure. 

Holiday Home tour
The Haverford Holiday House Tour will feature seven local homes.

Sunday, December 2nd, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Tickets: $20 HTHS members / $25 non-members. Proceeds benefit the Historical Society’s upkeep and preservation of local historical sites.
Tickets can be purchased on the day of at two locations: 536 Kathmere Road or 25 Tenby Road (both in Havertown).
Click here for more information.


4. Christmas at the Grange Estate

The crown jewel of Havertown, the Historic Grange Estate, has something to offer nearly every day of the holiday season between November 24th and January 6th. (Please note: no mansion tour on December 1st) The beautiful Victorian mansion, which dates back to the early 1700s, will showcase a themed tree in every room (13 in total). Take a stroll around the historic property’s 10 acres of woodlands and gardens. An extensive and unique Santa collection will be on display. Have a train lover in the family? You won’t want to miss the holiday train display. A flute choir will present a festive concert on Saturday, December 8th from 2-3 p.m.. (included with mansion tour admission). And, before you leave, get some shopping done in the Craft Shoppe, which sells items handmade by a crafting group that regularly meets at the Grange.

The Santa Room at the Grange Estate

View the full list of Christmas events at the Grange Estate here.

5. Support Local Artists

The Havertown Open Studio Tour (HOST) will take place on the weekend of November 30th – December 2nd. Visit twelve open studio locations (all in Havertown), where you can meet the artist, see the work, and possibly make a purchase! Artwork includes paintings, photography, jewelry, wood work, glass, terrariums, and more.
Click here for a full list of locations and more information about the artists.

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An oil painting by Deena S. Ball, one of the Havertown artists included in the Havertown Open Studio Tour

6. Take in a Show

Okay, so it’s not technically a holiday show, but if you’re in the mood for something other than The Nutcracker and would like to support our talented high school theater students, check out Haverford High School’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. There will be four performances between November 29th – December 1st. 

Click here for showtimes and ticket information.

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HHS student Grazia LaRosa will play the role of Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. (Photo courtesy of HHS Theater Program’s Facebook page)


7. Run (or Walk) a 5K

At the risk of having a pumpkin pie thrown at my face for suggesting it….just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean we can’t bundle up, lace up those sneakers, and burn off some holiday calories! Here are three local races happening in the next couple of weeks.

After hitting a new PR at the Cardinal Foley School’s 2018 Turkey Trot, you can enjoy a nice warm beverage in your new mug. (Photo courtesy of Cardinal Foley Home and School Assocation Facebook page)

Cardinal Foley School’s annual Turkey Trot 5K Run and Family Fun Walk is on Saturday, November 24th at 9 a.m. The race begins on Wexford Rd, next to Annunciation Parish, and loops through the Brookline neighborhood. Registration is $35. More information and registration here.

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Take in the scenery at the Chilly Trail Run 5K at Haverford Reserve (Photo courtesy of Haverford Twp Dept of Parks and Rec Facebook page)

The Chilly Trail Run 5K, presented by Haverford Township’s Department of Parks and Recreation, is on Saturday, December 1st and takes you through 3.1 miles of beautiful trails at the Haverford Reserve. The race is good for beginners and experienced trail runners alike. Registration is $30, the race begins at 9 a.m. More information and registration here.

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If you see 600 people running and walking through Havertown wearing antlers on Saturday, December 8th – don’t panic. Join them! They are (most likely) participating in the Reindeer Romp, which benefits the American Cancer Society – adding to the over $300,000 this race has already raised for this cause over the years. 

Featuring a new course, as well as a pizza and pub crawl this year, runners can take their bibs to participating Havertown restaurants for a free beer or soda, and slice of pizza. Eat, drink, run, and be merry – all for a great cause! Sign me up! The race starts at 3pm. More info and registration here.

8. Have Breakfast with Santa

Santa knows the best spot for breakfast outside of the North Pole is Havertown, of course.

Santa will be making a couple of appearances in Havertown, including J.D. McGillicuddy’s

St. James United Church of Christ (135 Myrtle Ave, Havertown) will host breakfast with the big guy on Saturday, December 8th from 9 – 11:30 a.m. In addition to a breakfast buffet, there will be children’s crafts and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus. More information here.

On Saturday, December 15th from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m., Santa will pull up his sleight at J.D. McGillicuddy’s (33 Brookline Blvd, Havertown). Reservations are suggested. Click here for more information.

You can also enjoy pancakes with Santa at the Haverford CREC on Saturday, December 15th from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. (When you’re as magical as Santa, you can be in two places at once!) $14 per person (children under age 2 are free). 

9. Witness a Good Old Football Rivalry

Thanksgiving morning means two words to families of St. Bernadette’s and St. Dorothy’s:

Turkey. Bowl.

turkey bowl
It’s football first, then turkey. (Photo courtesy of St. Bernadette’s CYO Facebook page)

The annual football game takes place at Steel Field and celebrates its 60th birthday this year. Why not get out and enjoy a classic local rivalry and support youth sports while you’re at it? More information here.

Our very own HHS Fords will take on Upper Darby on Thanksgiving Day – a rivalry going back to 1921.  The game is at Upper Darby this year. Kick off at 10:45 a.m.

Image result for Haverford High School FOotball

10. Donate Toys for Children in Need

Haverford Township coordinates a township-wide Toys for Tots drive through December 12th. While you’re out shopping, pick up a new toy or two (no stuffed animals, please) for local children in need, and drop it off at one of the following Havertown area locations:


toys for tots.jpg
There are numerous drop-off locations for Haverford Township’s Toys for Tots donation drive.

11. Go Ice Skating

When I think of fun winter activities, ice skating is one of the first things that comes to mind…despite my utter lack of skating ability. That’s okay, you don’t need to be a pro to spend an afternoon at the Skatium (1002 Darby Road, Havertown). Two lucky winners will win turkeys at the Turkey Skate on November 17 & 18th. More information here.   

Work up an appetite, and grab a bite at Have-A-Burger, located inside the Skatium. It’s worth the trip alone.


12. Get the “Santa Experience”

Forget the mall. You do not need to leave Havertown to get a photo with Santa that you will treasure forever. 

Local photographer Danielle Foster’s Santa photo sessions are so special, they are officially called a “Santa Experience.” And the price is very similar to what you would pay at the mall for a lesser quality photo.


Danielle Foster Creations studio is located at 1717 West Chester Pike, Havertown (please note: this is a NEW location!). Make your Santa Experience reservation online.

Now that you know about all the fun things to do right here in our own town, get out there! Please note: this is not an exhaustive list. Feel free to contact me with information about your holiday event. There are other events, such as community tree lightings, that I heard about through the grapevine but could not find any information. Please also check with your neighborhood’s civic association – many events in Havertown are planned through them. 

Happy Holidays, Havertown!


Growing Generosity and Fresh Food in Havertown

All photos by Erin Ingraffia / Five & Dime Studio Photography

If you are anything like me when you go to the Haverford YMCA, you head straight inside, do your thing, and leave.

Makes sense. However, the next time you visit, I encourage you to veer left and head to the side the building. There you will most likely find Randy Goldman.

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Randy is a retired lawyer and volunteer who tends to the garden (yes, there’s a garden!) at the YMCA every day. Usually.

“I do have other things to do,” he tells me.

That may be true, but Randy’s dedication to the garden is apparent. And our neighbors in need are reaping the benefits.

Over 2,600 pounds of fresh produce from the garden was donated to local food pantries last year.

“I’m aiming for over 3,000 this year,” says Randy. “But these groundhogs are killing me.”

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Randy works with three area food pantries: Hope United Methodist Church and St. James United Church, which are both in Havertown, as well as Ardmore Food Pantry, to distribute produce grown in the garden to those in need. The garden also partners with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s City Harvest program to acquire seeds and connect with distributors.

“We have a refrigerator here now, which makes it easier to store things,” says Randy. He explains that Ardmore Food Pantry was able to donate their refrigerator to the YMCA after receiving a grant to get a new refrigerator at their location. Refrigeration and safe storage of fresh food are the biggest challenges facing food pantries and gleaning gardens.

Randy had been using his own refrigerator, and borrowing his brother’s, to store the harvest.

“I couldn’t even grocery shop for myself, because my fridge was so full,” he says, laughing.

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David Mullin, Executive Director of the Haverford Area YMCA, tells me there are gardens at other YMCA locations, but none are as active as this one.

If Randy had his way, the garden would be even bigger.

“If only I could tear down this fence,” he says to David, motioning to the fence across the driveway. “I could expand.”

David jokes back: “If we could take that fence down, there would be more parking spaces.”

David also tells me Randy has been honored with the YMCA’s Volunteer of the Year award – twice.

It’s easy to see why. Just to name a few of the things you will find in the garden: asparagus. Peppers. Ten varieties of lettuce. Forty kinds of tomatoes. Peas. Cauliflower. Borage (edible flowers). Garlic. Herbs. Numerous pollinator plants.

It’s not just pollinators that Randy would like to attract to the garden. “I planted some flowers around because I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s a garden back here,” he says.

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Visitors welcome – just don’t pick any produce, please! (You never know, Randy may give you a free sample.)





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Randy encouraged me to try the borage. A popular use for this edible flower is to freeze into ice cubes and serve with summer cocktails.

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The garden fits into the Y’s overall mission of supporting healthy living and social responsibility. I think it fits nicely into the overall spirit of Havertown, as well. Deeply rooted, grown with care, and generously giving to those in need.

Follow Randy and the garden on Instagram.



Unlocking the Voice Within

All photos by Erin Ingraffia / Five & Dime Studio Photography

Many parents might not be too happy to hear one of their children call their sibling a nerd.

My neighbors, Greg and Linda Tino, welcomed it. Until recently, their 24 year old son, Gregory, had never been able to take advantage of one of the major benefits of being an older brother: teasing your younger siblings.

Gregory has autism. He’s the oldest of three (he has a sister, Alyssa, and a brother, Ryan). For the first 23 years of his life, he was only able to communicate with his family on a very basic level. To put it simply, it is hard for Gregory to control his body and mind at the same time, which makes speech difficult. Trying to communicate his needs could quickly turn into a frustrating guessing game for his family.

All of that is changing. Over the past year, Gregory has embarked on a remarkable journey that has opened the doors to a new world of communication for him and his family. Spelling to Communicate (S2C) is a communication method that teaches non-speaking  people with autism to communicate using a letterboard. (Non-speaking is a term that is applied to people who cannot speak, can speak minimally, or those who can speak but do not speak communicatively.)

Gregory 1
Gregory spells words using a letterboard with his communication partner at Inside Voice, Emily Pinto 

I was honored to be welcomed by Gregory and Linda at one of Gregory’s recent S2C sessions at Inside Voice in Springfield, Delaware County. Prior to the session, I had heard through Linda some of the amazing things Gregory was communicating by using the letterboard. His family was learning many new things about him, such as his interest in the Civil War, his fondness of ice hockey, and his feelings about living as a person with autism.

“We did not know about any of this,” Linda told me.

At Inside Voice, a trained professional takes on the role of Communication Partner – what we might normally refer to as a teacher or therapist. Gregory’s Communication Partner is Emily Pinto. Emily is close to Gregory’s age, and she creates her lessons based on material she thinks any person in their 20s would find interesting. For example, when I was there, Emily read Gregory a passage of information about the indie rock band Judah & the Lion. Then Emily played one of the band’s songs, Suit and Tie, on her iPhone. Afterwards, Emily asked Gregory some factual questions about the passage she had just read.

Gregory recalled the information rapidly and accurately, pointing to the letters on the board with no hesitation. Linda and I joked that we couldn’t even remember the details we had just heard Emily read.

Gregory 5

Gregory 3
Emily reads passages of information to Gregory, and records his answers

Then Emily asked Gregory some open-ended questions.

When asked what inspires him, Gregory’s right index finger moves smoothly across the board, spelling out the following words:


When asked what advice he would give someone struggling to make a change in life:



When Gregory’s parents first learned about the S2C method, and the success many of its participants were experiencing, they were intrigued but did not want to get their hopes up too high.

“We didn’t want to be deluded,” says Greg, who is a physician.

The family had to travel to Virginia for the initial sessions, as that was the closest available location at the time. Gregory took to the method quickly, and the results were undeniable.

Greg recalled a lesson which was focused on Dr. Seuss, and the rhyming patterns he used in his stories. Elizabeth Vosseller, the Speech-Language Pathologist who developed the S2C method, asked Gregory if he thought he could create a poem using the same style as Dr. Seuss.

With no hesitation, Gregory spelled:


Greg Linda Hug
Gregory hugs his mom after his session 


About a year ago, Inside Voice opened its location in Springfield, Delaware County. Colleen and Frank Foti, whose adult son Brian has experienced tremendous success using the method, led the effort to open the center. Brian’s brother, Tom, is now also a communication partner at the center.

There are currently 15 participants at Inside Voice, referred to as spellers, whose ages range from 16 – 57. All are experiencing success using the letterboard to communicate.

Emily attributes the success of spellers using the letterboard to their desire to communicate, more than any other factor.

“This population is determined to show the world what they are made of,” she says.

“This is not just my child,” Linda emphasizes. “We used to think of autistic savants – I now realize they are not the exception.”

It is not an exaggeration to say this method may completely change the way the world views people with autism. It is growing rapidly, with centers using this method now located across the country, including two in Pennsylvania.

As Emily puts it, “I believe it is going to take the world by storm, and hopefully it will reach as many people as it possibly can. This population is going to be able to communicate, and they are going to have a lot to say.”


Gregory Emily

Gregory 6
Emily writes down what Gregory says through the letterboard, word for word. If she misses a word, Gregory is sure to correct her.


This is the advice Gregory spells when I am visiting his session. He is aware that some people may find this method to be, well, unbelievable.

But what I witnessed was Gregory independently communicating his thoughts. There was no prompting of specific words, or guiding of his finger to certain letters. In the few cases where he pointed to the wrong letter, he immediately pointed to the “X” on the board, signifying that he had made an error. What I witnessed was a young man completely aware of what he was saying.

When Gregory was diagnosed at age 2 ½, his parents were told that he would most likely never talk. It was believed that many children with autism had severe intellectual disabilities, and it was almost impossible for Greg and Linda to tell what Gregory could actually understand.

At that time, one in 10,000 children received an autism diagnosis each year. In 2017, that number was one in 45.

“We decided from the very beginning that we were going to do everything we could to maximize his potential,” says Greg. “That has always been our guiding principle.”

Even with access to the best doctors, therapists, and resources available, many facets of Gregory’s autism have remained mystifying.

But Inside Voice has a motto: Confidence in Competence.

It is clear to me why this is such an important aspect of their core philosophy. On the surface, it does appear that Gregory may not even be listening while you talk to him. He may move around, and talk or sing to himself, giving no indication that he is absorbing what is going on around him.

“We are so used to judging people’s abilities based on what their bodies can do,” says Emily. “What I have learned to do is presume competence despite what I see on the surface.”

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A  letterboard used earlier in the program by spellers

Gregory uses the laminate, which is used by spellers who have achieved fluency

Learning to use the letterboard is “not a magic process,” says Emily. The spellers work hard. Starting with a board that contains larger, hollow letters, the spellers start by using a pencil to point to each letter. As S2C’s website explains: speech is a motor function. S2C works to coordinate the motor skill of communication with the cognitive function of language (our ability to think and understand in words). As spellers achieve fluency, they begin using their index finger to point, as well as a “laminate” – the type of letterboard Gregory now uses – which is a laminated piece of paper, slightly smaller than a typical placemat, with the alphabet printed on it. The ultimate goal is for spellers to be able to use a computer to speak.

Gregory now uses the letterboard as part of his daily routines. While Linda explains they still have their everyday challenges, there are basic aspects of life that have been made much easier because of the letterboard.  Linda can find out what kind of sandwich he wants to bring for his lunch break at his job (Gregory works with a job coach and works in the bakery department of a local grocery store, as well as stocking shoes at a local department store, and at a veterinarian’s office once a week). For the first time in his life, if Gregory has a headache, he can now let his mother know that.

He can also do other important things, like call his brother a nerd.

Greg laughs, recalling how Gregory teased his younger brother this way through the letterboard. These are the everyday interactions, the joking around, the busting of one another’s chops, that many families take for granted. Not the Tinos.

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Gregory and Linda at Inside Voice

Another important part of Gregory’s experience at Inside Voice is the community that he has gained. A group of spellers meet each Saturday for a group session. Again, it may appear to an uninformed observer there is no real interaction happening.  But, using their letterboards, the group talks about many topics, they share their feelings, and they even play games like UNO together.

Emily asks Gregory to tell me what the group has named themselves.

Gregory smiles and spells: THE GANG

They shared transcripts of a recent group session with me. I laughed when I read how The Gang eggs each other on during the game of UNO, just as any other group of friends would (one speller said I AM GOING TO CRUSH YOU ALL). At the end of the session, The Gang shared some insights about living with autism:







This is the message that the spellers, the Tino family, and the folks at Inside Voice really want to get out there: do not treat people with autism as though they do not understand what is going on around them. Interact with them. Talk to them about the things that any person their age would be interested in. Even if it is not apparent on the outside, they are listening.

We have so much to learn from those who have lived with significant challenges, and my time with Gregory was a humbling reminder of this. During the session I attended, he offered the following advice:



Thank you, Gregory, for the joy you bring to life. It certainly is not small.

Gregory smile
Check out Inside Voice’s blog Speak Without a Voice to read more thoughts from the spellers.




Fifty Years of Fun and Games at the St. Denis Fair

When I talked to Christa Gosseaux, she was taking the opportunity to run some errands while her kids were at sports practices. It’s a scene familiar to many Havertown parents: seizing a window of time – that never seems quite long enough – to try and cross a few items off your to-do list.

As a board member of the St. Denis Fair, Christa’s to-do list is a little longer than most these days. With about a week to go before the gates open for the 2018 Fair, it’s what Christa refers to as “crunch time.”

“The texts and emails are flying between board members right now,” says Christa.

As is the case with most community events in Havertown, the organizers are all volunteers who are juggling work, family, and many other responsibilities to ensure that the fair is a success. Many are the second or third generation of their families to be involved.

Christa is a St. Denis alumna and second-generation volunteer. The planning goes on year-round, but in the weeks leading up to the fair, Christa explains with a laugh: “This is the time when our families don’t see much of us.”

joe perrna vince gorski frank 1984A photo circa 1984 shows, from left, Joe Perna, who founded the fair in 1968, with fellow organizers Vince and Frank Gorski.  (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)

This year is extra special. The Fair is turning 50.

What started in the late ‘60s as a fundraiser for St. Denis parish, led by late parishioners Joe Perna and John Savini, has become a cherished Havertown tradition; a mainstay so synonymous with this town that it’s hard to imagine a time when it did not exist.

Some things have not changed. The Fair still serves as the primary fundraiser for St. Denis parish (which includes Cardinal John Foley school). The proceeds now support operational costs of the church and school, things like building upgrades and repairs. Christa tells me the fair raises an average of $80,000 – $100,000, after expenses.

viewThe Fair in recent years (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)
fairsetupFair set-up in the early 1980s (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)

Those who have not been to the fair in many years may be pleasantly surprised at how recognizable it is from the days of their youth. Many of the amusements and games have remained year after year. New Jersey-based Lynam’s Amusements have provided the rides for the past 28 years.

Other things have changed, including an indoor area for more grown-up fun like a beer garden with live music and casino games.

“We are also bringing back an old ride this year,” says Christa. “But it’s a surprise.” The St. Joe’s Hawk and Villanova Wildcat mascots will also be in attendance for high-fiving and selfie taking.


The slide is a favorite  (Photo courtesy of St. Denis Fair)

Photo courtesy of Instagram / @chris237

If you’re looking to start a new family tradition, consider volunteering. Christa says, “Volunteers come from all over, and they make it possible.”

As Christa and I spoke, a memory flashed through my mind. Somewhere among the VHS tapes that document our family activities starting from the early ‘80s until the dawn of digital cameras, there is a moment where I grin into the lens of the camcorder my dad is holding. My smile is full of missing teeth and there’s an unmistakable expression of excitement on my face.

“What are you doing today?” my dad’s voice asks from behind the camera.

“We’re going to the St. Denis Fair!” I exclaim back.

I realize that must have been around 1987, the same year Christa Gosseaux graduated from St. Denis School.

Thirty years may have passed since then, but the fun continues. And it never gets old.

May 2 -5 and 9 – 12
Hours: Wed through Fri opens 6pm; Saturday opens 2pm
Buy tickets online in advance and save
The Fair is still looking for volunteers: sign up here