Ten Culver Academies students piled into the mini-bus outside of Sally Port on a dreary December Sunday afternoon. Each received a set of papers that contained their mission for the day – the words to several Christmas carols.
The students of “Perform, Care, Collaborate” then spent the next 20 minutes rehearsing while club sponsor Lori Elliott drove them to their destination, the Catherine Kasper Home in nearby Donaldson, Ind.
Hannah Luo ’19 (Canton, Mich.), who organizes the trips, had come down with a low-grade fever and was forced to stay home at the last minute. So Kristen Gram ’20 (Decatur, Ill.) and Noah Tan ’21 (Stevensville, Mich.) helped run the students through their songs.
PCC originated as a senior service project several years ago, Luo said. The original purpose of the club was to provide more opportunities for student musicians to perform while also benefiting the local community – in this case, the residents at the Catherine Kasper Home.
Through the years, the club has grown much larger to include students who don’t perform. While every trip still features several students playing the piano, violin, guitar, singing and more, Luo explained, “Our most important goal is to bring joy and happiness to the lives of the residents.”
One Sunday each month is selected for the students to visit with the residents for approximately two hours. Up to 14 students, the number that will fill a mini-bus, go each time. There is a pool of approximately 50 students who will rotate on the trips as their schedules allow. Many of the Sunday sessions now include playing bingo.
Some of the residents don’t have family or friends living nearby, so they look forward to the students visiting, Luo explained. As the students sang on Sunday, one woman told them they “had brightened up such a gray day.” Another asked Tan if he had brought his violin this time. He had not, but he did play the piano for a few of the carols. Most of the residents joined in singing with the group.
After the students performed in the community room, they strolled down the halls and stopped in different rooms to sing one or two songs for residents unable to attend the group performance.
“Our visits have been extremely helpful in bringing some color and change of pace to their lives,” Luo said. “Oftentimes, we will get long letters of appreciation from the workers at the home, the residents, or, in some cases, the families of the residents.
“We have built some great relationships with the folks there,” she added. “Two of my closest friends at the home are Dan and Judy. Dan is a Korean War veteran confined to a wheelchair by severe arthritis. Even though he’s in a lot of pain most of the time, his whole face lights up whenever we play bingo. Judy is a very talkative, bubbly, and wonderful woman with a beautiful smile. Her favorite part of our visits is listening to the musical performances some of our students put on. She closes her eyes and nods her head to the beat, enjoying every second.”
After the students finished, they were each given a big bag of candy by the receptionist as they left, jumped on the mini-bus, and Elliott made a quick detour to the Dairy Queen in Plymouth before heading back to campus. Excited talking and laughter punctuated the trip home. This “gray day” had become noticeably brighter – for both the residents and the students.