REED CITY — Family Nights at Reed City’s G.T. Norman Elementary School have been well known throughout the area these last few years as wonderful, fun, helpful and something for the whole family to do on a monthly basis.

Now, the state obviously knows the impact it has on the education of children, and the entire family as well.

Saturday a group from Reed City made the trip to Traverse City to accept a trophy and a check for $1,500, first place in the community relations category in the 2011 MASB Education Excellence awards program.

Norman’s Family Nights include a meal, all sorts of activities to go along with a monthly theme and, in addition, each child who attends receives a free book. Sponsors and local businesses make it possible for children to win various prizes in drawings, and there are opportunities to do such things as go roller skating.

So popular was that thought last year, that well over 600 signed up to go. It was necessary, because of meeting code regulations set for how many can be in the roller rink at any given time, to ask those who had been able to go skating before, not go this time.

This year that has been resolved. There will be two trips on two different nights to the roller rink, allowing all children in the elementary school a chance to be a part of it.

In addition, the Family Nights often include the therapy dogs that are also a part of the “regular visitors” at Spectrum/Reed City Hospital, and animals the children delighting in practicing their reading skills on as the dogs politely listen.

This year Spectrum and Norman Elementary teamed up on the most recent Family Night and children as well as adults were able to get their flu shots. For free. And children were encouraged to bring along a stuffed animal or doll so they could visit with it and meet the doctor and other staff, learn that they are friendly, and learn that they don’t have to be afraid to go to the doctor when such a time comes.

Approximately 600 attended.

And so it was, for these sorts of innovative activities that have been commonplace over the years, that Norman received the high honor, one of only nine school districts in the state to receive the Education Excellence Award.

Taking second and third in the Community Relations category this year were Morris Adler Elementary, part of the Southfield Public Schools, and Anderson Elementary, one of Bronson Community Schools.

Vicky Bowman, coordinator of the Reed City Family Night program, accepted the award on behalf of the Reed City School District. Several others from Reed City attended including Reed City School Board member Kathy Yost.

Bowman remained after the awards dinner and ceremony to present a workshop on how the local Family Program operates, touching on such things as the importance of sponsorship, volunteers to help with the various activities, and other focus areas.