Family reunions a tradition for the Bednarchik family

About 75 members of the Bednarchik family spent last weekend in Cherry Hill as part of a family reunion. It was the 10th Bednarchik family reunion since 1987.

The Bednarchik Family gathers for a photo at Barclay Farm Swim Club last Friday night.

For Cherry Hill resident Alicia Slattery, there is nothing more important in the world than family.

From July 21 through July 23, about 75 members of the Bednarchik family from as far away as Florida and North Carolina converged on Cherry Hill for a family reunion. It was the 10th time the family hosted a reunion, with the first event taking place in 1987.

“I think it’s celebrating family,” Slattery said about the reunion. “It’s celebrating the love between each other that is so important. And seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces.”

For some of the family’s oldest members, the reunions never get old. Betty Bednarchik, a 90-year-old Marlton resident formerly from Cherry Hill, and Alberta Winieski, an 82-year-old Pennsylvania resident, were two of the family members who organized the first reunion back in 1987.

“In the beginning stages, we had it in our church hall,” Winieski said. “All of the Polish foods you could think of they would prepare for us. We had door prizes, we had raffle tickets.”

“There were 93 adults and 13 children the first year we did it,” Bednarchik added.

Robert Dubill, Alice Jones, Betty Bednarchik and Alberta Winieski catch up during the welcome picnic last Friday.

After the first reunion was so successful, the family decided to make it a regular occurrence and host a reunion every three years.

“We decided one year was too short and five years was just too long,” Bednarchik said.

A big reason the reunion is so important to the family is how distant some members live from the Philadelphia region. For this year’s reunion, family members traveled from Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and New York. In previous years, relatives also traveled from Michigan.

“We’re from all over,” Winieski said. “It gives us the chance to get together that we don’t normally have.”

As the years went on, Bednarchik and Winieski started to let the younger family members take over organizing the reunion.

“We’re retired,” Winieski joked. “The next generation has taken over.”

One of those younger family members who now organizes the reunion is Slattery. Slattery talked of how Bednarchik, who is her aunt, gradually handed over the reins to the reunion as time went along.

“My aunt is a good role model and we spend a lot of time together,” Slattery said. “She gave me little jobs all along as the reunion started. So we kind of all jumped right in.”

With the reunion moving to South Jersey this year, there was a local flavor to the activities. The weekend began at Barclay Farm Swim Club, Slattery’s home club, where the family held a welcome picnic.

For some family members, Saturday kicked off with a trip to RiverWinds in West Deptford to play a round of golf. Everyone gathered later that day for the main reunion event at the Haddon Heights Community Center. Everyone enjoyed food, activities and live entertainment featuring the Westmont Accordion School and the PKM Polish Folk Dancing group. Capping off the weekend on Sunday afternoon was a trip across the river to a Philadelphia Phillies game.

While this year’s reunion featured a new location and some new activities, a number of traditions remained in tact. Toward the end of every reunion, the family always gathers at the hotel to party at the pool. This year was no exception, as the Bednarchiks took over the Hampton Inn pool on Saturday night. Also as in past reunions, the family went to Sunday mass together, this year attending church at Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill. Religion has always been a big part of the family.

“Something that’s very important is our prayer time,” Bednarchik said.

“We used to hold the reunion in the church hall and then we’d stop everything and go over to mass,” Slattery recalled.

Bednarchik said the family always takes the time to remember family members who passed over the years. Winieski added the oldest members of the family are also giving special recognition at each reunion.

“The oldest one or two are always remembered in a special way,” she said.

Slattery said the family had a great time enjoying its 10th reunion. It was such a great time, some family members can’t wait until the next Bednarchik reunion in 2020.

“On Monday, we’ll start to plan it,” Winieski said.