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Pen pals brighten up seniors’ day at Holly Creek

Second-graders at Cherry Hills Christian School meet senior letter-writers for first time

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How do retired seniors get to know today’s youth?

For 82-year-old Shirley Hull and 8-year-old Reagan Davis, they do it by talking about families and animals.

And, said Hull, who has written letters to Davis since the fall, “I told her my favorite colors.”

At the Holly Creek Retirement Community in Centennial, 42 second-graders met the seniors they’ve been writing letters to for the first time on April 27. Through a program at Cherry Hills Christian School in Highlands Ranch, the children are matched with senior pen pals, with whom they have exchanged letters since last fall.

To kick off their get-together, second-graders sang “It’s a Small World” to the crowd of seniors.

Hull and Davis, both excited to meet, said the best part was just getting to know each other.

But teacher Sheá Goodwin said the program goes further than that.

It teaches kids “how to make relationships based not on someone being in the same class as you,” said Goodwin, a second-grade teacher at Cherry Hills Christian.

Students learn to connect with people not based on what they look like or if they’re the best athlete, for example, she said. And in a growing period in their lives, writing letters teaches the children how to answer questions about themselves and ask the same to others.

The relationships can be deeper, though, as the gathering showed.

“When the kids meet (the seniors), it’s amazing,” Goodwin said. “One little girl went, `I’ve been praying for you every morning.’ ”

One 96-year-old at the retirement community, who never had kids of her own, wrote to a pen pal through the program and found out they had the same birthday, Goodwin said.

For Jack Kelly, 82, the spontaneity of the kids made an impression.

“They disarm you with their openness and frankness,” said Kelly, a resident at the retirement community, which sits at 5500 E. Peakview Ave. They’re “very direct — what they see, they say. There’s no show. They’re too early in life to get deceptive.”

Parents initiated the pen-pal program so students would have the opportunity to interact with those from another generation, said Debbie Wen, parent of a second-grade student, according to a news release. This is the seventh year students from Cherry Hills Christian have corresponded with Holly Creek residents.

“In this age of texts, instant messages and Instagram, we wanted our children to learn and become familiar with how to correspond through letters,” Wen said, “and writing to Holly Creek residents has created friendships between students and seniors.”

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