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Family Life

Initiator of Family Day Sees It as Legacy of Love

May 28, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Does your family have any special plans for a week from Sunday? George Horvath of Fullerton hopes you do. He's the initiator of a campaign to turn the first Sunday of June into Family Day, a holiday he hopes will someday be celebrated all over the nation--maybe even the world.

If you just said, "Oh, no, not another holiday!" hold on a minute. Hear him out. Family Day, as he envisions it, would not be yet another occasion for buying gifts. "We are our own greatest gifts," he says. "This is a day to exchange each other." Nor would it be a legal holiday, paid for by employers and taxpayers. Horvath doesn't want Family Day to cost anybody anything. Nor does he want anyone to make money from it.

"If materialistic gifts are given, let them be given to the poor families," he says. "There are about 230 million people in the United States, at an average of 2.3 people per family. If every family gave $1 to charity, we could raise $100 million for the poor in just one day."

He's so determined to keep Family Day non-commercial that even when a representative of a major soft drink company contacted him and wanted to get behind the cause, Horvath rejected the offer. "There are so many cases where it's, 'Buy my hamburgers and celebrate' this or that. I don't want that to happen to this day.

"This is a personal, low-key day," he says. "I don't see it as the Fourth of July."

He also doesn't want anyone to feel left out on Family Day. "A family is any group of people an individual identifies with," he says. "It could be your friends, or your family at work. Or even the American family, or God's family."

Horvath, a 42-year-old engineer, knows firsthand that families come in many configurations. A divorced father who has joint custody of his three children, he was frustrated a couple of years ago at a local newspaper headline that said, "Divorced Dad Launches Campaign for Family Day."

"The fact that I'm divorced has nothing to do with this," he says. "My family is still a family."

Horvath, who describes himself as "simply a dad," has never been the activist type. But three years ago, as he and his family were visiting friends in Yorba Linda, he got a brainstorm as he watched the family interaction around him.

It was an ordinary, everyday scene: just a mother and father helping their three small children get cleaned up and ready for bed.

But to Horvath, there was something remarkable about it all the same, something that defined in an instant what families are all about. He wasn't sure why, but he wanted to freeze the moment in time.

"I saw a lot of love and interaction and extremely wonderful communication," he recalls. "And when I saw that--it was like a flash, I thought, 'I wish there was a day that everybody in the world could watch this family and just see what it's like.' "

Time wouldn't stop, of course. A year later, the father of the Yorba Linda family that inspired Horvath's quest died of a heart attack, leaving his wife to care for their children. The knowledge that the scene that gave him the idea could never be repeated made Horvath even more determined to make Family Day a reality.

By then, he had carefully chosen a date. "Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May, then two weeks later, it's Memorial Day," he explains. "The second Sunday in June is Children's Day, and the third Sunday is Father's Day. So the first Sunday in June seemed perfect. . . . They all sort of blend together into a summer holiday season, just like we have the winter holiday season from November to January."

The city of La Habra, where Horvath lived at the time, was the first to issue a Family Day proclamation in 1986. Since then, the cities of Santa Ana, La Mirada, Placentia, Yorba Linda, Fullerton, Costa Mesa and Anaheim joined in, along with the state Legislature and Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton).

"I have yet to find a politician who'll vote against it," Horvath says.

But official proclamations don't bring as much attention to the cause as splashy department store ads--such as the ones for Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts--might do. So Family Day tends to go largely uncelebrated.

That isn't the case for the Horvath family. This year, he and his three children--12-year-old Rebecca, 10-year-old George and 8-year-old Sarah--will get together with Horvath's mother, brother and sister, who live in Anaheim, along with their families.

"We exchange cards and tell how much we love each other," Horvath says.

Family Day is ideal for a picnic, he says, because, "it can be a chance for all of us to re-establish our commitments to each other and work on better communication. I hope that years from now, it will be celebrated around the world."

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