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Metro East grandmother has no problem embarrassing herself for her grandchildren

"You feel like you're going to let them down if you're not out there," Dana Hottenrott said.

SMITHTON, Ill. — The pandemic has been especially hard of children.  Kids have had to miss out on seeing their friends and doing activities not to mention the interruptions to their learning process.  A grandmother of seven in Smithton, Illinois is trying to brighten the day for kids in the metro east.  

“When I grew up I was very, very shy,” Dana Hottenrott told 5 On Your Side. 

But she isn’t she these days at least not on Fridays. The end of the week is when she steps into character for the local school bus. It started at the encouragement a family member.

“My one niece was like, Aunt Dana I’m surprised you’re not dressing up and I’m like OK well I’ll go out and do a few things,” she said.

The suggestion gave birth to what Hottenrott calls Friday Fun Day. It is when she comes out and greets the bus as it passes by her house.

“I have five grandchildren that ride this bus,” she said.

She has an enthusiastic wave for the kids from her front yard while dressed up in a full costume.  She wants to be there for them each week. “You feel like you’re going to let them down if you’re not out there,” she said.

It is her effort to help ease their minds during these uncertain times. “Maybe it lightens up their day a little bit,” she said.

She has no problem at all with putting on something that might be a little embarrassing either. “Oh my goodness. I think the most embarrassing thing I had on was in the fall when I said goodbye to summer and I was in my swimming suit,” she said.

Hottenrott admits that she is not a seamstress. Yet she makes her costumes herself as best she can. “Just throw them together. A tablecloth here, some duct tape there,” she said.

She uses some of her creativity to come up with inspirational sayings for the signs she puts up in the yard. “Just something you know if they do read it, it’s kind of uplifting,” she said. 

One of her family members has questioned her sanity. “One of my nephews was like Aunt Dana how are we ever going to know when you’re losing it,” she laughed. But she has no intentions of putting her costumes away and going back to her more normal Friday mornings.

“As along as they cheer me on, I will do it for them,” she said.  

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