Fun and games, and friends

The event brings generations together.
BOARDMAN -- In the last days of summer vacation, dozens of youngsters turned out for a back-to-school bash with some of the area's more seasoned citizens.
The courtyard at Beeghly Oaks Nursing Home on Market Street resembled a small carnival, complete with pony rides, llamas, games, clowns, air-filled slides and cotton candy. Each attraction appealed to enough youngsters to boast a waiting line.
Children a young as 11 months through junior high school age lined up Monday to make friends with Boardman police dog Breston, throw darts or pick up a balloon animal by one of the Aut-Mori Grotto clowns.
Reason for party: Lynn Melone, activities director at Beeghly Oaks, said all kids were welcome to attend, but part of the event's purpose is to thank students at Market Street Elementary and St. Charles schools who work with the nursing home residents on projects throughout the school year. She said the program also benefits young people who may not have the opportunity for activities such as pony rides.
Market Street Elementary student Brenna Weaver, 10, gripping cotton candy in one hand and showing red lips from the frozen drink finished off minutes earlier, said playing the games is what makes the annual event fun for her. The words had hardly passed her lips before she zipped off with the crowd headed for another game. The games offer school supplies as prizes.
Glenwood Middle School student Kristen Ortenzio, a third-year veteran of the bash, walked around with a balloon bunny fastened to her arm. She said kids who don't come out for the event are missing something special. She said it is fascinating how the organizers make the bash special for the students and the older participants from the nursing home.
Special meaning: Cathleen Puskar, fourth-grade teacher at Market Street Elementary, said the event gives students a day of fun and games, and has a special meaning to those kids without older family members in the area.
"I have had parents tell me that their kids do not have grandparents here in town and really look forward to getting together and doing these things," said Puskar.
Young people, however, were not the only fun seekers at Monday afternoon's end-of-summer soiree. Residents of Beeghly Oaks Nursing Home made their way around the grounds, visiting with the kids while enjoying hot dogs and punch. Several wheelchair-bound residents took in the fun and occasionally talked to youngsters from a shaded section of the yard, near the action.
Beneficial: Melone said interacting with the young kids is beneficial, even therapeutic, for many of the nursing home's residents. She said most residents, especially those with conditions such as Alzheimer's, respond well to the energy and excitement of the kids.
After four years of organizing the event, Melone has noticed that some residents and kids remember and gravitate to one another each year. She said it is especially encouraging to watch such recognition and friendship between the residents and students.

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