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Donna attended a family reunion where relatives of all ages and from all over the US gathered together in Canada. "It was wonderful to see relatives I hadn't seen in years and it allowed my children to meet family members that formerly had just been a face in a photo album," she says.

Mary cherishes the memories of a family reunion she attended four years ago that reconnected her family after a 25-year feud. She reflects, "It was a wonderful experience that linked us back together and revived our shared history."

You can be the catalyst to reconnect and revive your family connections by planning a reunion of your own. Though there's a lot of planning and coordination involved, the end results usually prove to be well worth the effort.

First, gather the names and addresses of family members and send out a short letter explaining your plans for a family reunion and a list of proposed dates and locations from which relatives can rate their preferences and eventually compromise.

When?
Most family reunions take place during the summer when the weather is better, travel is easier, and school is out

How Long?
Reunions can last anywhere from several hours to several days. The general rule is that the farther people have to travel, the longer the reunion.

Where?
Some options include one's home, hotels in big cities, ranches, cruise ships and campgrounds. To get the best attendance, it's usually best to choose a site that is centrally located to all members.

What to eat?
Whether you choose to cook at home or have someone else cook for you, feeding a crowd requires planning. Serving home-cooked meals can be a lot of work but some find the idea of cooking with others a lot of fun, and relish the opportunity to bond and swap recipes.

Other options include potlucks where everyone contributes food to share, and barbecues where cleaning up is painless. Others choose not to worry about food preparation at all by going to restaurants or having their meals catered.

If you're having a longer-lasting reunion, you may want to have different options for different meals. For example, you could let people go out on their own for breakfast, get together for lunch at home, and order pizza for dinner.

WHAT TO DO

To facilitate contact and sharing, it's a good idea to plan some activities for everyone.

Some ideas are:

Guessing Games:
Post baby pictures of adults and have everyone guess who's who.

Sports:
Fathers-and-daughters vs. mothers-and-sons volleyball, under-30 vs. over-40 tug of wars, women vs. men relay races...

Awards Ceremonies:
Give prizes for everything and to everyone -- best potluck contribution, cousins who look most alike...

Storytelling:
Share stories such as how grandma and grandpa met, dad's first words, and Aunt Susan's prom disaster.

Family Project:
Get handprints and footprints of every family member, create a family quilt, make a family tree.

Take Pictures!
Photos make great souvenirs to take home and great gifts for members who couldn't attend.

WHAT NOT TO DO

Adults have a tendency to kiss and pinch children's cheeks but for some children, such attention can be overwhelming. Respect and protect kids' space and time to get used to the crowd on their own terms, and ask that others do, too.

Also, don't set yourself up for disappointment by expecting everything to go as planned. No matter how carefully you organize, the daily course of life sometimes has plans of its own. Try to keep a sense of humor and remember that despite the rough spots, life is full of things to be grateful for -- namely, your family.

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