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Burnaby seniors and kids swapping smiles amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photos and uplifting messages exchanged between seniors home and community school
Normanna, Marcella Gallina
Normanna resident Marcella Gallina, 94, looks over a collection of uplifting messages and photos from Second Street Community School students.

Burnaby kids and seniors are sharing smiles – from a distance – thanks to a partnership between a local care home and a community school.

Residents at Normanna Care Home and students at Second Street Community School in the Edmonds neighbourhood have had a special relationship for some time, with students participating in programs at the longterm care facility.

Organizers at both sites didn’t want that to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so they recently launched a Give a Smile, Get a Smile campaign (or, as the elementary school students have taken to calling it, Selfies for Seniors).

Uplifting messages and photos from Second Street Community School students are bringing cheer to Normanna Care Home residents separated from their families because of the COVID-19 pandemic. - Contributed

The students have been stuck at home since spring break because of the suspension of in-class instruction across the province to stop the spread of coronavirus, so teachers are encouraging them to email in photos of their smiling faces along with uplifting messages about what makes them smile.

The submissions have since been pasted onto cheerily decorated poster boards now hanging in each of the care centre’s five units.

“We were looking for something fun and to lift their spirits because they can’t have their families,” Normanna recreation manager Leslie Torresan told the NOW.

But the smiles aren’t just flowing one way.

The Normanna residents have captured their own smiles and messages, too, telling kids what makes them smile.

Normanna, Rudy
Normanna resident Rudy Nobauer, 85, says what makes him smile is his beautiful wife, Cornelia. - Contributed

For 92-year-old Harriet Van Alstyne, it’s family, singing and playing piano.

For 95-year-old Amy Hama, it’s animals, flowers and travel.

And, for 85-year-old Rudy Nobauer, it’s his beautiful wife, Cornelia – “The love of my life,” he wrote on his poster.

“They’re so thrilled when they look at their boards,” Torresan said of the residents. “For me it’s really important that we have meaningful projects.”

The seniors’ pictures and messages will be sent via teachers to Second Street students.

Torresan said organizers hope Give a Smile, Get a Smile doesn’t stop after this first round of messages.

“We’re going to continue on with it as long as we can,” she said.