By Karrie Meyers — Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Connections with people are critical to our wellbeing, both physically and mentally. During this unique time of social distancing, finding ways to remain connected can be challenging. But last week Mile High Academy students, Carter (3rd) and Elli (1st) Leno, found a way to bring cheer and connect with their elderly friends through their participation in Mile High Academy’s Partnering for Eternity (PFE) grant program.

Parents Casey and Erika Leno run the ThriveCare Assisted Living centers in the Denver area. There are approximately 25 residents living in four total assisted living homes. Carter and Elli’s PFE mentors are residents.

“Part of our mission at ThriveCare is to provide a place for the elderly that is more than just a facility; it’s a home,” said Erika. “When we heard about Mile High Academy’s PFE program and the inspiring way it connects students with elderly, we knew we needed to get our kids involved. When you take the time to show kindness and love to another person, you receive so much more back. It’s a wonderful thing to experience.”

Carter and Elli visit the residents each week, sometimes playing games, reading stories or just talking about their day at school.

“It warms our hearts when we see the kids interacting with the elderly,” said Erika. “Many of our residents don’t have regular guests so there are lots of smiles and happiness when the kids come for a visit. The kids have really taken the initiative to interact with them.”

Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the regulations of social distancing enforced by the CDC has changed the ability to conduct face-to-face visits.

“Instead of making COVID-19 feel like another restriction, we are trying to find creative ways to show our residents they are loved and that the kids still want to talk with them,” said Erika. “It’s the little things that make a big difference in the lives of the elderly. They appreciate and love having a friendship with the kids.”

Carter and Elli started brainstorming ways they could still connect with their friends.  “We had extra paper so we decided to handmake cards,” said Carter. They got to work. At first, Carter and Elli started making a card for each of their mentors. By the time they were finished, they had made 27 cards in total, enough for each one of the residents at the four different homes. And while they weren’t able to personally deliver the cards, they were able to watch through the windows to see the reactions of their friends.

“I got to wave hello to them and make silly faces with them,” said Elli.

Mile High Academy’s Partnering for Eternity (PFE) grant program is a service-oriented, tuition assistance scholarship program. Students enrolled in the PFE program are paired with elderly adults in the MHA community and spend time each week visiting, reading, playing games and doing light chores. Not only does this program bring joy to the adults, but it’s also key in fostering the value of intergenerational relationships as students learn from the wisdom and mentorship of the elderly.

“Mile High Academy’s PFE program was launched with not only the purpose of brightening the day of the elderly but to also serve as a platform for mission work in the community,” said Angelika Feldbush, MHA’s PFE Coordinator. “Our program is successful thanks to the amazing, caring and God-sharing students and families we have at MHA. We can all take pride in the fact our students are doing God’s work by spending a little time with the older generation and serving as a light in the community.”

For more information about MHA’s PFE program, please contact Mrs. Feldbush at [email protected].

Karrie Myers; photos supplied