'I can make a difference.' Creating meaningful friendships at all ages
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A recently published children's book is teaching others that friendship knows no bounds.
"It is great to see an eight-year-old and a 90-year-old hold hands and just talk," said Karen De Santis, author of Tony’s New Friend.
The story is based on a real world elementary school program called Grandpals.
Students are partnered up with a senior at a retirement home where, once a month, the class would take a field trip to visit their new, older friends and garden, read books, sing songs and make crafts together.
"It makes them feel valued, loved and respected,” said Sophia Vidinovski, who was partnered up with a senior named Beatrice when she was in Grade 4. "Beatrice was always done up, always had her hair done, always had her nails done…She was such a happy person and I think that's why we connected."
Tony’s New Friend by Karen De Santis
De Santis ran the Grandpals program for 15 year and witnessed the endless benefits to intergenerational connections.
"The family members would actually put the artwork in the coffin when they had passed away because the program was so meaningful to them," said De Santis who published the children’s book following her retirement as an elementary school teacher. “They might have dementia and they might forget your name but at that moment they are happy."
De Santis hopes her passion project will one day be used across all schools board systems as it teaches empathy and compassion.
"I hope they go to bed thinking wow. I'm just a little kid but I can make a difference in someone’s life,” she said.
Tony’s New Friend can be purchased online and in bookstores around the world including the U.S., U.K. and Australia.