Kaaren Hayes to retire from App State after 36 years with Parent to Parent of the High Country

Kaaren Hayes is set to retire from Appalachian State University on June 1 after 36 years of service with the Parent to Parent Family Support Network of the High Country. Recognizing that when families need help, one of the greatest resources can be another family, Parent to Parent provides support, education and connections to families who: have children with diverse physical, emotional, intellectual or health needs; have a child born prematurely; or are grieving the loss of a child.

The Parent to Parent advisory board and staff will honor Hayes with a retirement celebration at the Levine Hall of Health Sciences atrium at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 31. The public is invited to attend.

“We extend our heartfelt wishes to Kaaren Hayes as she embarks on her new journey,” said Marilyn Miller, Parent to Parent outreach coordinator for Ashe and Watauga counties. 

Hayes, who graduated from App State in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in child development – birth through kindergarten, has been with Parent to Parent since its inception in 1988. She has held the position of program director since 1998, and also currently serves as the outreach coordinator for Watauga County. During her service to the university, Hayes has grown the program from serving only Watauga County to serving seven counties in the High Country: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties. Hundreds of families have been served by the program, and many have chosen to become support parents, offering much-needed support, care and concern to families who are new to experiencing challenges with their children.

The program has supported 64 interns and work study students from departments across the university, including early education, social work, psychology and sociology. The program has also supported more than 10 service-learning students, and thousands of App State students have volunteered service-learning hours to benefit the program, learning new skills along the way. It was a Parent to Parent intern who conceptualized a charity race to benefit the program, which has become the popular regional 5K/10K held each fall, the Spooky Duke Race and Costume Contest.

Throughout her career, Hayes has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2005 Ann Royal Special Recognition Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the Leo M. Croghan Foundation for distinguished contributions in the field of developmental disabilities. Since 1995 she has written over 265 successful grant proposals for App State, which have been awarded over $1 million. Among her many other accomplishments, she was also selected as the Reich College of Education’s macebearer for App State’s fall 2020 commencement.

Hayes said the success of the Parent to Parent program is due to the support from many people, including the dedicated staff and advisory board, as well as other App State faculty and staff, hundreds of student volunteers and interns, the Family Support Network of North Carolina and the families served by the program.

For more information about Parent to Parent, visit parent2parent.appstate.edu.

Kaaren Hayes and Dean Spooner
Published: May 22, 2024 9:33am