Julie Schanke Lyford with Robert and Jack Lyford

Julie Schanke Lyford: Celebrating Pride With a Book & Scavenger Hunt

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June is Pride Month, but the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled many of the standard celebrations. But months at home actually allowed West St. Paul resident Julie Schanke Lyford to write a book celebrating Pride. Now she’s sharing her story and launching a scavenger hunt, ensuring Pride Month is still celebrated even if it’s a little different.

The book, Katy Has Two Grandpas, is co-written by Lyford and her father, Robert Schanke, and tells the true story of Lyford’s daughter trying to explain her family. Lyford hopes to raise at least $8,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book. The campaign has already raised over $5,400 and runs through July 14.

The scavenger hunt is en lieu of a party for the book, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. Dubbed the Pride Stone Scavenger Hunt, Lyford and her team of volunteers painted more than a hundred rocks and hid them in three parks throughout the Twin Cities—including Thompson Park in West St. Paul. Scavenger hunters can find the rocks, scan QR codes on the back, upload photos, and win prizes (and then leave the rocks for others to find). The scavenger hunt runs June 19-29.

“We’re coming into an era where more children have openly gay grandparents than ever before. It’s important to give children the opportunity to see all kinds of different families in books, television shows, and movies. Heteronormative media shouldn’t skew the preconceptions of what a family looks like.”

Julie Schanke Lyford

Meet the Author

Lyford works as a chiropractic assistant at Lifestyle Chiropractic and has lived in West St. Paul since 1999. She served as the Heritage PTA president for six years, overseeing projects including the rain garden and fundraising for a new sound system.

Giving back to the community is a family affair. At the height of the pandemic, Lyford’s husband, Rafe, launched Operation Clear Shield to create face shields for medical workers using 3D printers. The Lyford family organized a local team and printed more than 1,200 face shields. Lyford has two daughters, Katy and Madi.

Conversation With Lyford

We talked with Lyford to learn more about Katy Has Two Grandpas:

Why did you want to write this book?

Several children’s books focus on children with their gay parents. Few, if any, however, deal with their gay grandfathers. This book, a true story, with dozens of colorful, original images, tells the story of a first-grade girl with a lisp who is always misunderstood by her classmates and teacher. One day when she talks about her two ‘gay grampas,’ she becomes very frustrated when they think she means ‘grampa and gramma.’ With the help of her big sister, she is able to let her teacher know what she is trying to say.  Finally, because she has such love for her gay grandpas and so much trust in their understanding her, she unexpectedly shines when introducing them at a classroom party for grandparents.  

How long has the book been in the works?

My dad and I have talked about writing this book for at least five years. I never seemed to have time—I was the PTA president at Heritage E-STEM for many years so that took most of my free time. Then COVID-19 hit and I was stuck at home.  So I decided now was the time.

What has the response been?

Response has been fantastic. It seems like this is the time for our book.  

Why is it so important for your girls to see their family represented in books? What does it mean to your family to see that?

Being a mother, I have read thousands of picture books to my children. However, there were none that showed our family unit, a family with gay grandpas. There aren’t any children’s books that actually identify the grandpas in the story as being gay. What’s surprising is that our book will be the first to use the word gay and make it clear the grandpas are married. Not just hinting at it. We are proud to be bringing the story to life.  

This is the second year that West St. Paul has officially recognized Pride Month. What does it mean to have that kind of city proclamation? 

The proclamation made me very proud to be in West St. Paul—things like that really help LGBTQs in the community know they can feel safe and accepted.

What’s your favorite thing about West St. Paul? 

So many things… I love how supportive the community is. I have friends I made in ECFE that I am still close friends now, 17 years later. Everyone has been so supportive of the book and helping us get the story out there. We also really love that we are near everything—sports, theatre, jazz, etc.

Thanks to Julie Lyford for sharing her pride and spirit with West St. Paul.

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