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Kids, Residents Benefit From Fairlawn Program

After 25 years, it’s safe to say the Fairlawn Haven “Kids That Care” program is a success.

“I would say so, ” said Barb Short, activity assistant.

“It wouldn’t be going on this long if it wasn’t,” she said.

The program matches elementary school students, grades three through six, and nursing home residents. The youngsters are matched with a senior, and stop in to visit every Monday night of the school year.

Short said in some cases, youngsters will come back during the summer months to visit their resident.

“Some really strike up a friendship,” she said.

Short said up until recently, she matched students with residents based on personalities.

“You can sense the child’s personalities, and I know my residents well, so I can match them that way. We try it; if it doesn’t work out, we’ll match them with somebody else. But nine out of 10 times, it works that way.

She said today, another person is doing the matches, but the same method is used.

“We do always assign girls to women, and boys to men,” she said.


Usually, she said, youngsters come in and visit for 30 to 45 minutes.

“They might read to their resident, or play table games. Sometimes, they give their residents wheelchair rides; or, if the weather is nice, they’ll sit out on the front porch and visit.”

Before the children start their visits, they go through an orientation session. Short said they are told there is the possibility their senior could pass away during the year.

“I like to be honest with the children,” she said.

That has happened over the years.

She said in most cases, the children deal with the loss well.

“Of course, they’re very sad. I had a little girl a couple of years ago, we felt she couldn’t come back here, ” after her resident died.

But, in general, Short said she feels children handle a death well, as long as she’s honest with them.

“Some look at their residents as fill-in grandparents. Some children even go to (the deceased resident’s) visitation. It’s their way of seeing closure.”

Short said it takes a special child to participate in the program.

“Some people are not comfortable in a nursing home,” she said.

At the start of every school year, information about the program is sent out to hundreds of students. Every year, only about 15 participate.

“Not everyone can do this,” she said.


For the youngsters, the program teaches dedication and responsibility, because they have to come in for their visit every week.

It also teaches respect for elders, she said.

The residents benefit from companionship and friendship.

“People here love young people. It’s so much fun to see the children in the rooms, and see how they relate.

“It almost brings tears to your eyes,” Short said.

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