When it’s Family Day at Lander University, the whole family gets involved.
That’s why Haylen Satterfield, a senior from Spartanburg, could not leave her family members, Waylon and Willie – a pair of Chinese Crested dogs - at home. Satterfield, accompanied by her mother and the family pets, arrived at campus to enjoy the first day of autumn, alongside 1,300 other parents, students and family members.
This is the third year that Satterfield, a senior majoring in elementary education, has attended Family Day with her mother, Nancy, who said the day was beautiful, but bittersweet. “We’ve loved being here for Family Day.“
While standing in line with their dogs for a caricature drawing, Satterfield remarked, “We were really excited that the University allowed us to bring them [the dogs] today, because they really are a part of the family.”
The annual event is designed to give families the opportunity to visit and enjoy a day of activities on the front lawn, which ranged from bounce houses and balloon creations to caricature artists, photo booths and freestyle games, including a golf simulation booth and pickleball.
Dr. Boyd Yarbrough, Lander’s vice president for Student Affairs, said Family Day attendance was a record. “We could not be more pleased with the turnout. Over the years, the event has continued to grow. When you look at the number of students and their family members who are here, you can see that it is very family friendly.”
Yarbrough credited Dr. Demario Watts, director of Student Life and Orientation, with “doing a great job planning the weather.”
Although Watts said he could not take credit for a day that any television meteorologist would love to predict, he did admit relief for the cooler temperatures. “I did not think it would be this nice. I’m so grateful for the fall season, the sun and the breeze.”
Students and families began planning their fall visit to campus during summer orientation, Watts said. “We let them know well in advance that we were planning this day for them and encouraged them to make their reservations early,” he said. “We had such great response that we well exceeded our goal of 1,000 people.”
Chris and Barbie Smith traveled from Long Island, New York, to visit their daughter Kayla, a freshman who plays on the women’s lacrosse team. “I really like Lander. I’m getting to know my professors,” Kayla said. “Although I’m far away from home, I feel very comfortable here.”
Thanks to the technology of FaceTime, the family is able to stay in touch on a daily basis. “It’s not the same as having her at home, but it makes being away from each other easier,” Barbie Smith said.
The close-knit campus and presence of Lander security are a relief for Chris Smith. “I know Kayla’s in good hands here. She has good surroundings, and she’s with people who care.”
Nykera Green’s family, who drove from Florence, was spending family time over a game of checkers. Nykera’s mother, Clarissa, said the day gave them the chance to “enjoy the atmosphere and have fun as a family.” She admitted to missing her daughter, saying, “We talk every day. Now, we can spend the day together and have fun.”
A sophomore majoring in psychology, Nykera said she was drawn to Lander because of the friendliness she experienced during her freshman year orientation. “Lander has my heart. I knew when I visited that this is where I was meant to be.”
The love of wrestling brought Kaevon Gardner to Lander. A sophomore exercise science major and member of Lander’s wrestling team, Gardner said, “It’s great to see my family again.” His sister Kalliscya, a student at Clover High School, said she was glad to have a day with her brother and visit Lander’s campus.
Joey Plyer, a 2020 graduate of Lander who now works at the University, reflected on the contrast between experiencing Family Day as a student and being involved in the event as a staff member. “I see a different side that I didn’t get to see as a student. A lot of work and preparation go into making this day a success. It’s awesome that we have so many students experience this day with their families. As staff, we may be working, but we’re having fun along with everyone here.”