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Founders’ Day events honor AA anniversary

5/29/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

The Gate Lodge at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens was formally dedicated as the “Birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous” in 2000. It was restored and reopened in 2004 with an exhibit that highlights this historic event.
Photo: Dale Dong
GREATER AKRON — Of the events that take place at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, June’s Founders’ Day celebration is one of the most rewarding both for employees and the estate’s guests who come to visit the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Donna Spiegler, Stan Hywet’s communications manager, said the event is so rewarding because the visitors “are just so grateful.” Spiegler said it’s wonderful for the estate to be able to share such an incredible event that just happened to originate there.

Stan Hywet, located at 714 N. Portage Path, will honor the 79th anniversary of the founding of AA June 6-8 with free admission to the grounds and Gate Lodge, where Henrietta Seiberling brought together prominent Akron surgeon Dr. Bob Smith and New York stockbroker Bill Wilson on Mother’s Day in 1935. Smith and Wilson, both admitted alcoholics, developed the principles that still serve as the cornerstone for the organization, according to Stan Hywet officials.

The Gate Lodge formally was dedicated as the “Birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous” in 2000. The lodge, restored after the death of Irene Seiberling Harrison at 108 in 1999, was reopened in 2004, Spiegler said. An exhibit at the Gate Lodge tells the story of Smith’s and Wilson’s meeting and Henrietta Seiberling’s role in bringing the two together. The exhibit features period furnishings, Spiegler added.

During Founders’ Day weekend, the estate also offers a reflections tent and provides notebooks for visitors to record their thoughts about the visit, Spiegler said. The records are preserved in notebooks stored at the Gate House, she said. Other weekend activities will include music by 91.3 The Summit, concessions and T-shirt sales, Spiegler said.

The Gate Lodge was built as a residence for the estate’s superintendent, who lived there until his death in 1923. The lodge was next occupied by Fred Seiberling, the eldest son of F.A Seiberling, his wife, Henrietta, and their three children, according to Stan Hywet officials.

Free transportation will be available June 7 between Stan Hywet and The University of Akron (UA), where other Founders’ Day events are planned, said Spiegler. The grounds and Gate Lodge will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

For more information, call 330-836-5533 or go to www.stanhywet.org.

Founders’ Day events are sponsored by the Akron Area Intergroup of AA, according to Founders’ Day Committee Chair Dain R., who, like all AA members, goes by just his first name. Many of the weekend’s events will be based at UA, where thousands will gather the evening of June 7 at 8 p.m. at InfoCision Stadium for a large meeting.

“If I had to guess, it’s like ‘Amazing Grace’ is our national anthem and at the stadium they’ll sing it,” he said. “For me, the chills start coming when they sing it.”

The annual motorcade to the graves of Smith and his wife, Ann, at Mount Peace Cemetery, 183 Aqueduct St., will take place June 8 at 7:30 a.m.

“They have a memorial service for Dr. Bob and Ann and they have a speaker at it,” he said.

Other Founders’ Day activities will include meetings and presentations June 6-8 at UA, and events for members of Al-Anon, which helps family members of alcoholics. Dain also said the play “The New Man” will be performed June 6 at 5 and 8 p.m. and June 7 at noon and 2:30 p.m. at the former Central-Hower High School, 123 S. Forge St.

Dain said this year also marks the 70th anniversary of AA Grapevine, and there will be two presentations June 7 at UA’s E.J. Thomas Hall about the international journal of AA. According to Grapevine’s website, www.aagrapevine.org, its primary purpose is to carry the AA message to those interested in alcoholism through its magazines, websites and related items. The website states it communicates the experience, strength and hope of its contributors and reflects a broad geographic spectrum of current AA experience with recovery, unity and service.

“Grapevine is a meeting in books,” said Dain, adding it helps people who are in hospitals or incarcerated and are unable to attend a meeting. “It’s like going to a meeting.”

Dain said Founders’ Day activities are open to anyone, but registration is required at foundersdayregistration.akronaa.org. He said on-site registration also will be available June 6 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and June 7 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at UA’s Student Union on the third floor in Room 335. A schedule of events is posted on the website.

“There will be a lot to see and a lot do,” he said. “This weekend is about Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson. We try to keep it what it is.”

Dr. Bob’s Home also will provide free shuttles from UA to the home, located at 855 Ardmore Ave. in Highland Square. The house where Smith lived from 1916 until his death in 1950 was turned into a museum honoring the AA co-founder in 1985. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark by Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ken Salazar in 2012.

Dr. Bob’s Home is open daily from noon to 3 p.m. The home will be open extended hours June 5-8 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information, call 330-864-1935 or go to www.drbobshome.com.

“There will be 3,000 to 5,000 people at Dr. Bob’s Home that weekend,” Dain said.

Overall, Dain said Founders’ Day weekend is about fellowship.

“We’re people who normally would not mix if we were drinking, but now we depend on each other for our survival,” he said. “We’re not alone and we don’t have to do this alone. There are different people and races and we all come to depend on each other.”


Kathleen Collins contributed to this article.

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