MOOREFIELD – The GrandPals project began in 2010, connecting children with elderly individuals in the community, allowing for meaningful friendships that span generations.
This year’s gala drew about 100 attendants and took place on June 15 at the Maryborough Community Centre. Students celebrated their GrandPals by reading stories and presenting artwork created over the eight-week program.
Among the speakers were Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson and Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae.
Tesza Roantree teaches Grades 4 and 5 at Maryborough Public school and worked with her students to connect with local seniors, and to prepare for the event.
“The students just shocked me. They did a wonderful job with their oral speaking skills, and everyone really enjoyed it,” Roantree said.
“There was overwhelming excitement from both the students and the GrandPals. It’s great to see the bond that can be created between a 10-year-old and an 80-year-old. My students think of them as their friends.”
Roantree has been working with Helen Edwards, coordinator at the Senior’s Center for Excellence.
“Helen has been phenomenal. She knows who to reach out to and who would be good a good fit for the program,” she said.
This is the first year the Senior’s Centre has participated in the program, but Edwards hopes it won’t be the last.
“I think any time you can bring together different generations, to have conversations and share experiences with each other is a win,” Edwards told the Community News.
“Seniors and young people experience ageism on a regular basis, and to have the two groups come together to learn more about each other is of great benefit to both demographics.”
The presentations were for the benefit of everyone in attendance and were not judged, but Edwards felt that because of the bonds formed, everyone who participated was a winner.
“There were so many presentations that touched your heart because the kids would say it made them want to go to school and that they hoped to see their GrandPals again outside of the program.”
National team coach and program founder Marc Mailhot said one of the highlights was seeing the reaction of the GrandPals.
“Of course, the kids and the teachers as well, but a few of the GrandPals were in tears. We’re not trying to make the GrandPals cry of course, but they were happy tears, so that’s always a good thing,” Mailhot said.
For more information or to get involved, visit grandpals.ca.