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Camp brings cheer to Brian Center residents

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Iva Rucker said she likes to greet the kids at the door.

“They seem to look forward to seeing me, and I look forward to seeing them,” she said.

Every Thursday during summer break, Partners in Learning buses one of its summer camp groups up to the Brian Center for an afternoon with the residents. The campers, ages 8 to 10, play games or put together puzzles with anyone from the center who wants to join.

“A lot of them don’t get to see children,” Mandy Jones, activity manager at the Brian Center said.

Jones said many of the residents — like Rucker — come back week after week. Campers often give the returnees nicknames. Rucker proudly said that her nickname was “Grandma Rucker.”

Rucker said she spends Thursday afternoons solving puzzles with the campers.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” she said. “The kids seem to have a good time.”

Rucker has four grandsons of her own, but said she still calls the campers her “grandkids.” And they make her feel young again.

But Shaina Vail, family and school-age coordinator at Partners in Learning said that it helps the kids grow up.

“They become instant adults when they walk through the doors,” she said.

Vail said she’s seen even the most hyperactive camper calm down when he or she enters the Brian Center. The children treat the residents with respect, and help open doors or push wheelchair-bound residents around the room. The students are learning to respect their elders and how to age, themselves.

“It brings a different culture. It brings a different lifestyle to the kids . . . it just brings a different world to the kids,” Vail said.

Friday, the Brian Center hosted a back-to-school party for the campers, with ice-cream sundaes and a piñata. The kids were each given a pencil pouch full of writing instruments and erasers to wish them on their way to a good school year.

The center’s activity room was full of shouts and laughter as campers and residents alike took a swing at the piñata, and as children scrambled for its sugary spoils.

But when the party ended, and the kids waved goodbye for the last time — this summer — Jones said the residents would be sorry to see the kids leave.

“It brightens their day,” she said of the visits.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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