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GrandKids celebrates 20 years

Pioneer program hosting open house Tuesday

Danie Harrelson

— Twenty years ago, GrandKids began as a pilot project in Colorado to bring together Steamboat Springs’ youngest and oldest residents.

The community can celebrate the program’s 20 years of success and the first year anniversary of the Doak Walker Care Center at an open house Tuesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Doak Walker Care Center.

The all-day child-care program became the first intergenerational program in the state in 1981.

“We pioneered the concept of having children inside a skilled nursing facility,” said Christine McKelvie, spokeswoman for Yampa Valley Medical Hospital. “It’s a successful combination.”

GrandKids provides daily opportunities for its infants, toddlers and preschoolers to interact with the residents of the Doak Walker Care Center.

Planned activities, such as story time, arts and crafts, ice cream socials and exercise sessions allow young and old to spend time together.

The spontaneous activities, however, afford the most joy, McKelvie said.

An elongated stroller filled with infants or a group of toddlers seated in a red wagon often rolls through the halls of the Doak Walker Care Center.

Their unannounced arrival always brings a smile to residents’ faces, she added.

“It’s very informal, but very heartwarming,” McKelvie said.

GrandKids Director Joyce DeLancey said she hopes graduates of the program will come to the open house.

At GrandKids’ “Sweet Sixteen” anniversary party, several teen-agers who had been in the program showed up, much to their former teachers’ delight, DeLancey said.

Photo albums and scrapbooks filled with pictures of former GrandKids will be displayed for people to see, she said.

The close proximity of GrandKids’ facility to the Doak Walker Care Center promotes constant contact between the children and residents, DeLancey said.

This gives children a different perspective on aging, Doak Walker Care Center Director Carol Schaffer said.

“It’s wonderful for the children because they learn to accept people as they are,” Schaffer said. “It doesn’t matter if these people are in a wheelchair.”

Time with residents also fills a void that might exist for children who live far away from grandparents, she added.

“A lot of them don’t have grandparents here,” Schaffer said. “Here the children get accustomed to that grandmother- or grandfather-like figure.”

The Doak Walker Care Center opened last November.

Visitors to the open house will be treated to activities, music and refreshments.


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