Savoring summer with grand goals
Bob and Kelly Grimaldi have a website to share their evolving adventures with the world
Their initial goals, posted in 2009, included learning to skateboard (check), milking a cow (check), and domesticating a newt (strange as it was, that was checked too). However, a decade later, they have yet to have a conversation in Polish or meet someone famous. But that may change this summer.
These seasonal adventures are available for anyone to see on summergoals.com, a website created by Bob and Kelly Grimaldi of Derby.
Their annual list began when they were dating as students at Canisius College, seeking a novel way to enhance the romance of summer break. During a night at Buffalo’s Founding Fathers Pub on Edward Street, they compiled the first list in Bob’s notebook.
“We were both planning to go home for the summer,” explained Kelly, whose maiden name is Fronczak. “Bob lived in Wheatfield and I lived in Attica. The list was a way to keep things going and make summer purposeful, not just let it fly by. I felt like that could happen.”
The list has morphed into a keystone of their lives. Married in 2015, Bob and Kelly have made it an annual tradition to compile their summer goals. Early on, they posted the list on Facebook, but have since created their own website, where the public can follow along.
Some goals are whimsical, like discovering a total of $8 in loose coins over the course of a summer, or spending one afternoon in a rowboat. Others require a deeper commitment, like climbing a mountain or changing the lettering on a theater marquee.
On their website, a separate tab lists each year. Once a goal is accomplished, it is struck through with a line.
“You can see through the lists how we’ve grown,” Kelly reflected. “When we began, I was a 19-year-old. Now I’m 29. In the beginning it was very random and reflected who we were at the time. In our more recent lists, it’s clear we both find joy in doing things for other people.”
Today, Kelly teaches third grade at Eden Elementary School, while Bob, 31, works as a compliance officer in Getzville. As part of their zest for life, they frequently surprise people with unexpected kindness.
“One of my favorite stories was when we paid for a couple’s breakfast,” Bob recalled. “In 2010, I was an unpaid intern in law school for the summer, and Kelly worked as a lifeguard. We had no money between us, so a lot of what we were doing required having fun for free. We were eating at The Olive Tree in Lancaster, found an older couple nearby, talked to our waitress, and paid their check anonymously. It was like $30, but because we had nothing, giving something away felt special. Seeing their smiles was important.”
“The man stood up and yelled, ‘who did this?’” Kelly said. “He thought he knew somebody in the room. We just kept eating and didn’t even look up. We were probably the last people he suspected. We were just a couple of kids with their longboards.”
The longboards they had learned to ride the summer before, incidentally, quickly became their primary mode of transportation around Western New York.
Last summer’s list included making a screen door, organizing a local reading flash mob, and surprising a couple with a paid movie date, all of which were achieved. They did not, however, ride a jet ski nor learn a song on the harmonica.
“The list of things Kelly and I can say we’ve never done has shrunken,” Bob mused.
Other goals have included making a family tree, visiting a redwood, and canoeing the St. Regis River. They have climbed nine mountains together.
“It’s not about exhausting ourselves,” Kelly said. “It’s about making summer go by slowly, accomplishing things and being able to say, here’s what we did. We don’t pressure ourselves. If something doesn’t get done, we just roll it over.”
Early lists included 15 items annually, but as years progressed, the number was trimmed to 10. Whatever isn’t accomplished is added to goals for the next summer.
“Meeting someone famous has been on there since year one,” Bob said. “We don’t want to pay for a meet-and-greet. We hope it happens randomly. We don’t want to go out of our way.”
“No pressure,” Kelly added. “If it doesn’t happen, that’s fine.”
One goal was only partially met. They intended to walk from Bob’s parents’ house in Wheatfield to Kelly’s family home in Attica, 50 miles away.
“We thought it was something we could do, but this falls under me having a stupid idea,” Bob confessed.
After mapping out a route, they woke at 5:30 one morning and began the trek. They made it roughly halfway, onto Niagara Falls Boulevard, before calling it quits. The goal remains on the list, with a .5 in parentheses.
Another goal that did not work was riding a two-person bike.
“It’s much harder than you think,” Kelly recalled. “We were in Portland, Maine, and saw a tandem bike for rent. It was on our list, so we decided to go for it. They told us the biggest part is communication. Bob was in front, but we just weren’t talking to each other well that day. We eventually admitted this wasn’t working, so we gave up and walked the bike back to the shop.”
Bob and Kelly are proud of their acts of kindness. In 2016, they built and installed a “Little Free Library” in front of the Eden Boys and Girls Club. Knowing kids are reading makes them happy. Another time, they surprised ten people with gift certificates to Fran-Ceil Custard in Blasdell.
“We just did it randomly,” Kelly said. “We drove around and either left it in a mailbox or on a windshield with a little note that included our website.”
Shortly after, a stranger emailed them, explaining that she received the gift certificate and used it to take her loved ones for ice cream. She had been experiencing a difficult time because of family health issues, but Bob and Kelly’s gesture brought everyone together.
“The email said this was exactly what they needed,” Bob said. “That was really cool.”
Summer goals have inspired Bob and Kelly’s friends to make their own lists — another way they have helped improve the world.
“We do it much more informally,” said Amy Steger, 31, a Hamburg resident and fellow teacher with Kelly at Eden Elementary School. “We don’t have a website, but use a chalkboard wall in our toy room.”
The Steger family includes Amy’s husband, Joe, and their boys, Derek and Nolan. They began compiling a summer goals list four years ago.
“It’s cool to teach our boys to set goals and achieve them and make memories each summer,” Steger said. “We may try to visit ten different ice cream shops, or ten different playgrounds. We plan hikes together. Our list focuses on ways we can spend family time. Bob and Kelly are an inspiration in so many ways.”
As they have done for the past ten years, this Memorial Day weekend, Bob and Kelly will go to a restaurant, pull out a notebook, and begin brainstorming. Together, while eating their meal, they will write a list of ten goals for 2019 to piggyback onto the 13 unaccomplished goals from past years. By mid-June, the list will be posted on their website.
This year includes a new wrinkle: the couple is expecting their first child in June. They acknowledge the coming lifestyle change, but remain committed to achieving their summer goals. In fact, they look forward to incorporating family events in future lists.
©2019 by Jeff Schober