By Rosie Powers
It's not often that 400 children gather around your porch to sing "Happy Birthday."
Then again, it's not often that you turn 100.
Students from Ascension Catholic School, along with two Oak Park Fire Department trucks, assembled outside of Mildred McDonald's home Feb. 8 to honor her 100th birthday. After singing to her, many of the students gave her hugs and pink flowers as she sat on her front porch.
"Mildred is part of the community that defines Ascension," said Principal Mary Jo Burns. "Her focus has always been on the children, their education and formation."
McDonald, whose children attended Ascension, has stayed involved with the school for the past 30 years. She was asked to become a volunteer preschool assistant in the early 1980s, a role that Burns said she filled for many years. "She started working at Ascension when my daughter, Kelly, began kindergarten," said Mildred's son, John McDonald. "She's always been associated with Ascension School, helping out where she could." Burns said McDonald has supported Ascension students even with small acts, such as sending religious gifts to the school's second grade students during their First Communion and donating to the school's annual Lenten mission programs. "Every Halloween she'd make popcorn treats for the whole school," said Mary Ann McDonald, Mildred's daughter-in-law.
The school held a large celebration for McDonald's 90th birthday as well. It's a natural since Mildred and Ascension are the same age.
"She is a shareholder in our work to bring children up in the faith, to welcome them into the parish community, to form them as good citizens and to teach them to do good," Burns said.