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Students exchange letters, spend time with the elderly in Fair Oaks

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Seniors have stories to tell, but they don’t always have someone to listen.

That’s where students from St. Timothy School in Chantilly come in — as pen pals and visitors to seniors at Sunrise Senior Living in Fair Oaks.

Christina Zorn, physical education teacher at St. Timothy, started the program last year.

“I had a puppy that I wanted to bring in as a therapy dog to the nursing home/assisted living facility because when my grandmother was in an assisted living home she loved the dogs that came to visit,” Zorn said. “I started working with my advisory at about the same time and decided to figure out a way that the students could also become involved in providing companionship to the elderly.”

Her 10 students from sixth through eighth grade write letters to seniors every two weeks.

“I told them they weren’t always going to get letters back and shouldn’t expect something in return,” she said.

Jacqueline Norcross, a seventh-grader, looks forward to writing letters and visiting the residents. “It makes me happy to see the residents smile, laugh with me and my peers, and see them genuinely happy,” she said.

This year they are expanding the program to include monthly visits to the senior center. Recently, they played games with the seniors and had a Halloween party.   

“The students and seniors are enjoying it,” Zorn said. “It gives faces to the names they are writing to.”

Matthew Pyster, activity and volunteer assistant at Sunrise, said the seniors enjoyed the chance to reflect on their lives when they were writing the students.

“The student visits made it a tangible experience and the seniors got to have a little vitality having the kids run around,” he said. “Having a letter shows someone cares.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018