WINTER GARDEN Christmas came early this year for the residents at Health Central Park thanks to 15-year-old Madison Roe.
After taking a service learning class at Ocoee High School, Madison realized that not everyone at assisted-living facilities have family members around with whom to celebrate Christmas.
So she decided to bring Christmas to them.
“Not a lot of families visit their moms, father, grandmothers or grandfathers for the holidays,” Madison said. “So I wanted to get them something.”
She choose Health Central Park not only because of its proximity to where she lives, but also because a longtime family friend is a resident of the facility.
“I came up with the idea because my Granny Sasser is living there, and I wanted to get her something for Christmas,” Madison said.
She began working on her project in late October, collecting donations and saving up money she had earned from getting good grades on her report cards.
“I was really impressed,” said Madison’s mom, Celia Anderson.
After contacting the facility to find out what the residents might like in their gift bags, Madison began assembling the bags with the help of her younger cousin Kylee. During the next five weeks, the two girls put together 105 gift bags that contained a variety of items including socks, combs, lotions, chap stick, red lipstick, note cards, pens and pencils, paper, word search and puzzle books, playing cards, candy, coloring books, crayons and blankets.
Dec. 3 was the big day, and for two hours, Madison handed out the gift bags to the residents.
“When we went, (Madison) was so excited,” Anderson said. “She even sang a few songs for the people - and she’s not a singer. But they wanted to hear Christmas carols, so she did it.”
But for Madison, communicating is a daily challenge.
Diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, Madison cannot hear things like most people. Although she can hear, her brain has difficulty processing sounds and spoken language to determine their meaning.
To cope, Madison has learned to read lips in order to communicate, although being in a group setting makes communication nearly impossible. Despite the challenge, she never lets it hold her back. At school, she works hard just to maintain her good grades in all her honors classes.
On Dec. 3, it was all about surprising the residents and spreading the Christmas cheer, she said.
Most of the residents were thrilled just to have someone visiting them, and Madison said that the experience was amazing.
“The people who worked there were so nice, and the residents were so happy,” she said.
Word about Madison’s project spread and eventually reached the ears of the Ocoee Police Department. Officers visited Madison at school to learn more about her project and recognize her efforts.
But she’s not done.
For Valentine’s Day, Madison hopes to make another visit to the residents at Health Central Park - this time to deliver cards.
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].