Over the past four years, members of the class of 2023 and their parents have learned just how valuable Woodberry’s outdoor space is.

During the worst parts of the pandemic, many aspects of school life — from meals to classes to social hours — moved outdoors to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. And even as life went back to normal in the boys’ fifth- and sixth-form years, the class continued to enjoy outdoor amenities such as the fire pits that were installed during the pandemic. “Our committee was unanimous in its desire that this year’s gift be outdoors,” said Brad Roberts, father of Graham Roberts ’23, and co-chair of this year’s Sixth-Form Parents’ and Grandparents’ Gift Committee with his wife, Reed. “That’s absolutely a reflection of COVID and how important outdoor spaces are to the campus.”

On Amici Night, Brad announced that the class of 2023’s Sixth-Form Parents’ and Grandparents’ Gift would enhance the Class of 2023 Rapidan Recreation Area, a patio on the west side of the Walker Building. The gift will improve a space that has been popular with the entire community since the Walker Building restoration was completed in 2020. “We want to create a space where students can do the things teenage boys love to do — cooking out, listening to music around a fire pit, or watching sports,” said committee member Carla Warlow, mother of Griffin Warlow ’23. “Our hope is this is a space where boys can enjoy being outside, off their phones, building the bonds of brotherhood.”

This year’s class gift had a special resonance for committee member Andrea Bell, mother of Charlie Bell ’23. Nineteen years ago, when she was working in Woodberry’s development office, Andrea led the fundraising effort for the first sixth-form parent gift. Parents of the class of 2005 pledged more than $300,000 to build a faculty home that was first occupied by history teacher Matt Boesen and director of health services Christal Boesen, along with their children, Zack and Emily. Today the house is home to Michael and Maggie Leahy and their three children.

“Charlie was a baby that year as I worked with the class of 2005 parents, so to be part of this year’s gift as he graduates is really a full-circle moment,” Andrea said. She noted that the next year’s gift funded the construction of the Class of 2006 Track and Field Complex, home to a series of record-setting performances by members of the class of 2023.

Over the past nineteen years, parents and grandparents of graduating sixth formers have contributed more than $11 million; this year’s gift raised $838,000. The 2023 committee elected to use the amount exceeding its goal of $750,000 to help fund the Graydon D. Robertson ‘16 WFSPN Endowment Fund, established this year by Robbie Robertson, Gray’s father, with a gift of $100,000. The fund will support the operating budget of the student-run broadcast network.

“WFSPN is so important in helping parents hear and see their sons play when they can’t attend games in person,” Carla Warlow said. “It really helps parents feel connected to their sons and the school.”

Carla also noted that sometimes the chance to listen in to the student broadcasters’ conversations about things off the field — whether it’s a discussion of what’s for dinner or the latest happenings on dorm — are as important as the game playing out on screen.

Brad Roberts said every member of the committee felt they and their sons had benefited from WFSPN being part of the Woodberry experience. “WFSPN is near and dear to all of us,” he said. “I watched and listened to Graham’s matches, but I also loved the chance to watch the other sports he wasn’t in. We hope in years to come that boys can watch WFSPN’s broadcasts of away games in the recreation area!”