Seniors give love, dolls to children

Publish Date:

Friday, July 22, 2016 10:49 am EDT


News Organization:

The Daily Progress

Source URL:

For the third June in a row, nearly all the ladies at Sunrise Senior Living, 47 Greenbrook Road, made about 80 yarn dolls to send to the preschoolers at University Heights Charter School, located in Newark.


“Each year they were thrilled with it, in fact to the point where preschoolers come back as kindergartners and say, ‘remember when you gave me that octopus?” Dean of Curriculum and Instruction Amy Brancato said.


Part of Brancato's duties at the school include spearheading this program. The community service project was started three years ago when Brancato’s mother, Marguerite Bersch, who was a resident at Sunrise, was making yarn dolls for another cause, children with cleft lips.


“Her daughter walked in while her mother was making them and said, ‘would it be possible for you to make these for our class in Newark?'” Denise Ramiccio, a life enrichment manager at Sunrise who organizes monthly community service projects, recalled.


“I was looking for something for my mom to take part in as well as looking out for the kids where I work who don’t have all the things that maybe other kids have,” Brancato said.

Bersch has since passed away, but a piece of her continues on through the project.


“They really enjoy this every year, and I get a really big turnout. Everybody wants to get involved, even the care managers want to get involved,” Ramiccio said.


Residents like the service project because of the creativity involved and the tangibility of the work, which goes to children just a few minutes drive away.


The dolls, which are made to look like Octopi, take about two to three hours each to make.

"We all sit in a big circle in the activity room and we just talk with each other and make the dolls,” Ramiccio said.


Hope Ward, one of the residents at Sunrise and one of Bersch’s best friends, has been the most prolific doll maker.


“The ones that weren’t going well I would give to her, and at night she would fix them,” Ramiccio said, adding that, in all Ward singlehandedly made about 30 of the dolls.


“The past two years I’ve been able to read a story about the ocean and talk about what we’d find in the ocean, and then I give the octopi to the dolls,” Brancato, from the school, said.


She hopes to introduce the Sunrise Senior Living residents to the school children for next year’s doll project.


*This article also ran in print.

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