Anne Frank Birthday Celebration

Elaine Meyers Special to The Citizen Jun 25, 2022 Updated Jun 25, 2022

Anne Frank was born in Germany on June 12, 1929. Eighty-four years later in June of 2013, a chestnut tree sapling from the original tree outside Anne Frank’s secret annex was planted on the grounds of the Southern Cayuga Central School. Our school was one of 11 sites in the United States to receive a sapling. It has been lovingly tended and each year, a photo documents the growth of the tree. As always, keep updated on the tree by visiting

We celebrate our tree every day of the year, but on Anne’s birthday we take time to read about Anne, have a birthday treat at lunch, gather, remember, sing and take photos. It is always a joyous occasion, and this year was no exception. At our June 10 birthday celebration, I joined fellow Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Project board member Natalie Kimbrough to distribute Popsicles to all Emily Howland students during their lunch times. We discussed Anne’s birthday and the celebration around the tree that would begin at 1:45 that afternoon. Teachers had been reading books about Anne Frank to their classes, and the children knew about Anne and her tree. Many remembered celebrations from previous years and thanked us for the Popsicles.

At 1:45 p.m., classes began to arrive at the tree site. White paint marked a large heart shape around the tree and students sat within the heart. Ricky Gessler, Emily Howland’s music teacher, played his guitar as students settled around the tree. His guitar music calmed the group, but when he began to sing James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” the crowd quieted. The appropriateness of the lyrics focused the entire audience, who sang the refrain, “You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I’ll come runnin’ to see you again.” Gessler sang of our darkest nights, a dark sky full of clouds, cold winds and people who hurt you and desert you. The refrain and promise of a friend who is yours for winter, spring, summer and fall, with only a call to be there, was a perfect beginning to the celebration.

As the song ended, Emily Howland Elementary’s new principal, Boyan Mnahoncak, took the microphone. She welcomed the students, staff and guests. Her smile, words and energy had the students waving and cheering for Anne and her tree. She ended her remarks and introduced this guest columnist, who would speak about the tree and the Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Project.

Only a few people had seen me scrawling notes and crossing out most of my prepared remarks. James Taylor’s words had given me new insight to the event. I approached the microphone and began:

“We just heard a song about a very good friend. We all need friends who help us and bring us hope and comfort. As we gather around our tree, I am thinking about two of Anne Frank’s friends. The first friend was a horse chestnut tree outside her window. Unlike you and I, Anne could not leave her secret annex. She and her friend Peter could only look at the tree from the attic window. But the tree brought great comfort. Anne wrote about her tree in her diary. She wrote about the blue sky, like the blue sky over our heads today. She wrote of the comfort of the birds in the air. Anne said that as long as she could see the sunshine, the cloudless sky and her tree, she could not be sad. To quote Anne, I know that there will be solace for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances. I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.”

I continued, “Anne’s second friend was a diary that she received as a birthday gift when she was 13. She named her diary. Does anyone know the name of her diary?” Hands shot up throughout the heart-shaped student body. “Call out the name of her diary.” Voices chanted, “Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!”

“Yes! She called her diary Kitty and she told Kitty how she felt about her family, being cramped in the secret annex and most importantly all about her hopes and dreams. Anne wanted to be a writer — a journalist. She wasn’t sure if her writing was good, but she knew that she had to write. She hoped one day that people would know that she had talent as a writer. Anne’s diary is available in 40 languages and is read around the world. She brings hope to all who read her words. We join the world as we celebrate Anne Frank birthday, her tree and her writing. We are especially grateful to be only one of 11 places in the United States who can glance out of the window or walk outdoors and see her tree.”

The celebration ended with singing. Mr. Gessler led the school in singing a song written by former faculty member Cathy Mullarney. The lyrics say all we need to know about the hope that Anne Frank and our Southern Cayuga community bring to our daily lives:

We’re a family and we’re a tree,

Our roots go deep down in history.

From Emily Howland reaching up to me,

We’re a green and growing family tree!