NJ students surprise couple with long overdue honeymoon

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NJ students surprise couple with long overdue honeymoon. Nora Muchanic reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on May 19, 2017. (WPVI)

Fifth graders from Mercer County surprised a couple with a honeymoon they were denied 60 years ago.

Sometimes you don't have to be a grown-up to right a wrong. Just ask Reverend Gil Caldwell and his wife Grace, who are receiving a 60th anniversary gift from some school students they will never forget.

"Oh I think it's marvelous, it's a lesson in democracy. It's a lesson in freedom, it's a lesson in so many things. The whole idea of having an idea and following through is so great," Rev. Gil Caldwell of Asbury Park, New Jersey said.

Reverend Caldwell has come to speak to the fifth-graders at Bear Tavern Elementary School in Titusville for the last two years about service and civil rights.

He worked and marched for racial equality with the late Dr. Martin Luther King.

On one of his visits, Caldwell told the students about his honeymoon in 1957. He and Grace drove 8 hours from North Carolina to stay at the now-defunct Mount Airy Lodge in the Poconos. They had a reservation, but were turned away because of their race.

"Can you imagine having one of the most joyous moments in your life turn into a horrible memory?" student Emily Eschleman said.

"It made me really sad. I mean I wanted to do something for them because it was really bad what they did back then," student Erika Melton said.

The 5th graders launched a letter writing campaign to the Mount Airy Casino-Resort asking if it might consider hosting the Caldwells for their upcoming 60th anniversary. The resort gladly agreed.

"It's a way to right the wrongs of the past. You can't fix it, but you can set an example for what it should be like," student Simeon Daponte said.

At a school assembly the children surprised the Caldwells with a weekend getaway they deserved 60 years ago.

Rev. Caldwell said, "Deciding that yes, we can say yes to young Grace Caldwell 60 years after they were rejected is a wonderful thing."

"What happened after that is what's important especially with these young people have done today. I think that's more important than anything I could ever say," Grace said.

The kids know they can't undo the racism the Caldwell's faced, but they're learning that when you take action and work together even little kids can make a difference.
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