Aurora students bring holiday cheer to seniors

Kaitlyn McGarvey
Record-Courier

Residents of a local senior care facility were delighted by festive tunes sung to them by Aurora High School students on a recent afternoon.

Avenue at Aurora residents and employees were treated to volunteers singing carols . Resident Cindy Yee watching through a window as the teenagers performed classic Christmas carols.

About 30 teenagers wearing masks and Christmas-themed hats walked around the perimeter of the Avenue at Aurora, 425 S Chillicothe Roadd. Bundled up in winter coats, they stopped periodically to sing classic Christmas songs to residents who watched from inside. Seeing the young carolers sing outside their windows made for a safe and enjoyable Christmas activity.

Brenna Baker, a junior at Aurora High School, organized the event after prompting from MaryKay Misterka.

Misterka's mother, Carol Ann Zgrabik, is a resident of Avenue of Aurora. Because of the pandemic, 2020 will be the first time Zgrabik is unable to be with her family for Christmas. She told her daughter how much she wanted to hear a children's choir singing Christmas carols, which prompted Misterka to ask the community for help to make her mother's wish come true.

After posting in an online community forum for Aurora residents, Misterka got in touch with Melissa Baker, Brenna's mother. Once plans were in place, Zgrabik was so excited for the event that she was literally counting down the days, Misterka said.

A few songs heard at the event were Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman. Because none of the high school's singing groups participated in the activity, Brenna said she specifically chose traditional songs that most people would already know. Students practiced privately before gathering for the event.

Avenue at Aurora residents and employees were treated to volunteers singing carols . Almost 30 teenagers, mostly Aurora High students, including Maria Parks, 16, and Kayla Tejada, 16, performed classic Christmas carols. The windows were slightly opened to hear the songs.

Brenna is a member of Aurora High School's Interact Club, a group dedicated to hosting service events in the community. Participants also include the school's Service Learning Class and National Honors Society, both of whom share Interact Club's goal of providing service to the community.

The caroling event was especially important because of how COVID-19 has impacted holiday plans for everyone, Brenna said. It helped lighten spirits and brought many smiles to the faces of the facility's residents.

"I feel like it brings a little bit of joy, a little bit of Christmas cheer," Brenna said.

So many things have changed since March, Avenue at Aurora Administrator Karen Stahlman said. Typical events like large parties and group activities are not possible right now. Staff has largely kept residents entertained with daily one-on-one room visits. A family car parade as well as window visits from horses and puppies have also helped give comfort.

The visit from the carolers fit well with the facility's activity department's plan to help residents celebrate the season. Avenue at Aurora is now celebrating "The 12 Days of Christmas," Stahlman said. Staff have helped Avenue at Aurora get into the spirit of the holiday by wearing ugly sweaters, hosting soup cook offs and distributing individually wrapped goodies.

Avenue at Aurora residents and employees were treated to volunteers singing carols . Almost 30 teenagers, mostly Aurora High students, performed classic Christmas carols.

If anyone is ever looking for a local volunteer project, Misterka asked, please consider doing something for those living in senior care facilities.

Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at kmcgarvey@recordpub.com or on Twitter at @kaitlynmcg_rc.