BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — During tough times, even the smallest act of kindness can go a long way. South Florida now has the chance to bring joy to a senior's life through the "Adopt a Grandparent" program.
"It's just been so hard for this last year," said Lenor Ryan, a balloon artist in South Florida. "A lot of people can't have visitors. There's a lot of restrictions on whether you can touch someone or if you can hug them and different things. We just hear that the senior community and residents and stuff are really feeling isolated and lonely."
Ryan caught wind of a nationwide program in which balloon artists create "buddies" for seniors and then individuals or groups make a small donation to sponsor one for a senior.
"For me, it's very personal," said Ryan. "Unfortunately, my father went into the hospital last summer and then he got put into a long-term care facility. I did not get to see him for 16 weeks and then, unfortunately, he passed away in the night. I had never been that long ever without seeing him or talking to him or anything and, because he was on the ventilator, I was unable to even do the FaceTime like a lot of people are able to do."
Ryan said she has struggled with comprehending what her father might have been thinking in the final weeks of his life.
"I (knew) he's lonely," said Ryan. "He was a very social person and so, I just, it makes me think about all the other people who are alone and may not be able to see their family and friends."
Ryan's goal is to be able to gift a balloon buddy to each of the 57 seniors who live at Discovery Village at Boynton Beach.
"I just think this is such an awesome thing," said Mary Allen, the assisted living administrator at Discovery Village. "I mean, our residents have been isolated in this building for a year for the most part. For a long time, they were isolated in their rooms and we saw a decline, so we were using FaceTime and different mediums to be able to connect with other people besides our staff. Just having something like this and just the love and the caring, it's just so kind and so awesome for them."
Ryan delivered a few buddies already. The three seniors who got them were beaming with excitement, named them and began playing with them as if they were small girls playing with dolls again.
"Although I don't know the residents here, I just think I can make them happy and bring some joy to them," said Ryan.
For a $20 donation, Ryan will create a buddy on someone's behalf and gift it to a senior at Discovery Village.
"Twenty dollars will go a very long way with this," said Allen. "If you can only see just the love in their eyes and the happiness, I mean, it's just very delightful for all of them to have this and to have it, you know, times 57 people, the building will just be gleaming, so it will be wonderful."
For anyone who purchases five buddies, Ryan will make a sixth for free. Visit her website to register.