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Olds school holds Christmas stocking drive for seniors

In partnership with the Youth Empowerment and Support program, members of the École Deer Meadow School leadership, Interact academies making positive impact
Cadler Hallett, left and Rishab Sehdev display some of the collection boxes and one of the stockings for École Deer Meadow School’s 12 days of Christmas Stockings for Seniors initiative.

OLDS — The countdown is on for École Deer Meadow School (ÉDMS) students as they collect items for their 12 days of Christmas Stockings for Seniors initiative. 

The goal is to fill 100 Christmas stockings with useful items for seniors, then deliver them to the Seasons Encore retirement facility on Dec. 22, the last day of school before the Christmas break. 

Big collection boxes have been collected and distributed to businesses around the community so that residents can drop off items too. 

In addition to local businesses, as of Dec. 4, ÉDMS is also accepting donations for the stockings. They can be dropped in a donation bin set up in the school lobby. 

The collection drive is a partnership between the Youth Empowerment and Support (YES) program, the leadership academy and the Interact academy at the school. 

The class that collects the most items will receive a YES Christmas party. 

The project began several weeks ago. It had been undertaken last year at schools in Bowden and Spruce View when current ÉDMS YES success coach Kendra Weisbrodt worked there.  

In an email to the Albertan, Weisbrodt said the idea behind the initiative is to “promote positive mental health during the holiday season.”  

“Connecting youth and seniors as well as helping ensure both community groups feel seen, valued and cared for is the goal of this project,” she wrote. 

“By partnering with (teacher) Sandi Hoppins and the leadership academy, we are creating ways for students to feel empowered to connect, volunteer and use their abilities to positively impact another group of community members.  

“This is an active step in achieving our goal for our DMS YES program theme: Be a small part of something big.” 

Weisbrodt as well as Grade 8 students Rishab Sehdev and Cadler Hallett, two members of the school’s approximately 20-member leadership academy, detailed the project during an interview. 

Sehdev and Hallett said some useful skills have already been learned from undertaking the project. 

“Being in charge of setting up stuff, organizing,” Sehdev said. 

“It’s teaching the younger kids and just people around town to care,” Hallett said. 

“(To) give back to the seniors," Sehdev added. 

Hallett said seniors were chosen as the beneficiaries of the project because “most seniors actually don’t have a lot of Christmases anymore."  

“Some of them are forgotten in their homes or some of them don’t even have families. Some of their families don’t really reach out to them in the seniors’ homes," he said. 

“We just want to give them the Christmas that they didn’t have.” 

“We are working together to bridge the gap between young people and seniors,” Weisbrodt said. “A great way we can do that is to serve them and provide to them and bring some Christmas spirit to them.” 

Hallett said when the students drop off the collections on Dec. 22 they’re bringing some board games.  

“We’re bringing games for immobile seniors that can’t really walk around, dance, that kind of stuff. We’re bringing board games so they can sit down (and) play,” he said. 

The plan is for the students to play those games with some seniors. 

“We’re going to try to get to know them better,” Sehdev said. 

He said he and Hallett have been researching dementia, a condition that affects many seniors. 

"It’s a condition where you can’t remember where you are, like remember things in the current moment, so to talk to them you have to be very clear and calm,” Sehdev said. 

“You can’t talk in very big sentences and if you say something to them and they say something completely off-topic, try and ask them questions about what they said back to you.” 

“It’s a forgetful condition where you easily forget things. Some seniors often forget who their family is, where they are, why they’re there.  

“You forget really easily and it’s really, really hard to remember. It’s near impossible to remember,” Hallett said.   

“We learned about how to have a conversation with them and learn more about them,” Sehdev said. 

“Our goal is just to lighten up their Christmas,” Hallett added.  

Doug Collie

About the Author: Doug Collie

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