Twice a week, 9-year-old Hannah Wilson of McPherson looks forward to seeing her friends after school.
These friends don’t play on the swing set or run in the park with her. In fact, they are more than a three-quarters of a century older than her. But her time spent with them makes a difference, and that’s what brings her joy.
“It’s fun to talk with people and see them,” she said. “It’s just fun because I get to see how I can help people.”
Every Monday and Wednesday since August, Hannah has made a visit with her mother, Kristen, to the Sterling House of McPherson. While there, she most looks forward to talking with and reading to a small handful of residents she now knows on a first-name basis. She has developed an especially close relationship with 90 year-old Nona Goad.
“We get along a lot,” she said, later playing with a doll in Goad’s room.
Once her routine became more regular, her 8-year-old brother, Drew, also came along. He enjoys helping with cleaning and organization at the home. Both siblings aren’t shy with giving Goad frequent hugs or sitting with her in her chair.
“I love little kids,” Goad said. “I fell in love with those two when they started coming here. It makes me stop and think about when I was their age.”
Hannah’s interest in the Sterling House began last school year, when her third-grade class at Lincoln Elementary School developed relationships with their pen pals at the retirement home. It seemed the intrigue had stuck. It was no longer an assignment, but a growing desire to affect the lives of those she could. And it was contagious.
“You can tell their mom didn’t make them come here, they volunteered,” Maria McGoldrick, life enrichment coordinator at Sterling, said. “They’re very giving children. The energy that flows from them is a big thing. It’s just amazing to watch her interact with them. It’s just a blessing to them.”
The duo have no plans of discontinuing their visits, and their involvement is likely to grow. McGoldrick is exploring areas that Hannah can contribute with more responsibility. Drew is now in third grade and will begin writing to pen pals.
Lincoln third-grade teacher Laura Miller said she thought of Hannah’s situation as the district’s College, Career and Citizenship initiative in action.
“In today’s time, it’s amazing they’re wanting to be so giving of their time,” Kristen said. “It’s not all about them. It just makes me feel proud as a mother.”