Upper Canada College’s Parents’ Organization (P.O.) brings people who care about their sons and the school together every year, and sometimes their relationships blossom into something that grows well beyond the fences of the Deer Park campus.
Nowhere is that more evident than with the women who served on the 1994-95 P.O., which was headed by Nita Reed. Her son Michael graduated in 1996 while other women in the organization had boys of various ages, and none of them knew each other outside of UCC. But some of them grew so close that it was decided that they should try and get together once a month to keep their ties alive outside of school functions.
Of the 27 women involved in that P.O. group, 16 of them went to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake in July 1996. They may not have realized it at the time, but a tradition was born.
The next month they attended the Stratford Festival and, without exception, they’ve assembled once a month ever since. A few drifted off after a few years, and another one passed away, but a core group of 11 who jokingly refer to themselves as the “UCC P.O. Old Girls” has kept things going.
Reed recounts former UCC principal Doug Blakey telling her at a volunteer reception in Grant House garden that getting together once a month was too much and that they wouldn’t be able to keep it up. While Blakey is a wise man, the women have proven that he’s no soothsayer.
“We’ve gone from 11 women who were at the school all the time and knew each other from the school but didn’t see each other otherwise to become such a fantastic group of women who’ve gotten to know each other a lot better because over the years you go through life together,” says Reed.
“Our boys still don’t necessarily know each other, although they all know about us and love the fact that we’re still getting together.”
There were activities every month — including movies and visits to the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario and Bata Shoe Museum — for the first 10 years. Now there are annual summer trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford and a movie at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, but it’s generally a 90-minute lunch at various Toronto locations for the other nine months of the year.
Another tradition that’s been established is that the women — some of whom are now grandmothers — take up a collection and purchase a crystal bowl from William Ashley as a wedding gift whenever one of their children get married.
Some of the women’s husbands have also become friends, and certain group members spend time with each other socially and get together on other occasions, but they all put their best efforts towards meeting up for their monthly lunches.
“We’re not part of UCC anymore, but we’re all past parents who all have sons who graduated from the school, and some of them are friends,” says Reed. “We’re together because we’re such good friends.
“We just know that we’re really lucky to have this incredible group around us. I’ve had a health issue this year and this group of women has just been so helpful with things like driving, shopping and cooking. They’ve been unbelievable.”
The UCC P.O. Old Girls are Maureen Tingley (Patrick ’96), Nadia Cochran-Gahan (Chris ’98), Kelly Beales (Cody ’95 and Ashley ’96), Valarie Hung (Anthony ’95 and Ryan ’97), Ellen Carter (James ’94 and Michael ’98), Nita Reed (Michael ’96), Sandra Sullivan (JD ’97), Patsy Freeland (Aaron ’94 and Mark ’98), Libby Burton (Edgar ’95 and Peter ’96), Kaye Beeston (David ’97), Kathy Gale (David ’99) and the late Su Thomas (Julian ’96 and Ryan ’98).