In a gathering 15 years in the making, students from Immaculate Conception School in Los Angeles recently visited their sister school Holy Name of Mary in San Dimas for a day of liturgy, friendship bracelets, smiles and lots of carnival rides.It was harder to tell which school’s students were more excited for the meet-up — the 270-plus students from Immaculate Conception who arrived in busses or the Holy Name students holding homemade banners to greet their guests on the curb.“The little ones were especially excited, jumping up and down,” said Immaculate Conception principal Mary Ann Murphy. “That especially brought tears to my eyes.”This was the first time that the entire school bodies got a chance to interact with each other. In the past, only Holy Name student council members have traveled downtown for various activities; some grades have joined together for field trips; and a few Immaculate Conception families have been invited to all-expenses paid trips to Holy Name’s large fiesta.The students certainly know of each other. Holy Name students often raise money through various fundraisers for the inner-city school; students have become pen-pals with each other; and the schools pray for each other weekly. Holy Name students also adopt an Immaculate Conception family at Christmas time, raising money, buying gifts and delivering them to the school.This year, when it was announced that Holy Name’s annual spring fiesta would be held in late April, school board president and festival chair Tom Kaye advocated inviting not just a handful of students to the fiesta, but the entire student body. The timing was perfect: the three-day fiesta opened on a Friday, a school day, albeit in the evening.Why not, suggested Kaye, open up the fiesta earlier for just the students? After receiving an unanimous thumbs-up from teachers, staff and Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Father Rich Danyluk, pastor, organizers started the job of making the inaugural meeting happen.“Our kids have heard so much about these students throughout the year and now they were finally going to meet them,” said Holy Name principal Candice Kuzmickas. “This was an historic moment in the history of our school. To see those kids’ faces as they got off the bus made it all worthwhile. Right away, they were walking hand-in-hand with each other, their new friends.”After disembarking, students visited classes and later celebrated Mass that included a multi-media presentation on the story of creation. Then it was time to switch on the rides for the private party of about 600. For two hours, students giggled, twirled, raced and smiled. “This is better than Disneyland,” exclaimed one student to Kuzmickas. After the exhausting and exhilarating day, Immaculate Conception students did one more thing before heading home: They planted rose bushes near the school’s statue of Mary, a symbol of the unity of the two schools.Now, weeks after the play date, parents, students and staff still are “in a glow and talking about it,” said Murphy. She and Kuzmickas promise to continue to strengthen the bonds between their two schools. “This meeting was indeed a blessing for both,” said Murphy. “All students realized that even if they come from different families, cultures and socio-economical levels, they have so much in common.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0524/playdate/{/gallery}