May 1 was May Day, an international day in celebration of spring. The day is often celebrated with dancing around the maypole, parades and family outings, but at Traditions of Spring Hill senior living facility, the beautiful day was perfect to host a parade for the residents.
Friends, family members and community officials decorated vehicles with balloons, ribbons, hearts and posters with messages for their loved ones and drove around the parking lot honking horns, waving and calling out to the residents.
Almost all of the facility’s 70 residents were seated outside — following social distancing protocols — watching and cheering as their families and friends passed. State Rep. Scott Cepicky (District 64), Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham and members of the Spring Hill Fire and Police departments in their emergency vehicles also joined the parking lot parade.
“They’ve been cooped up with the rainy winter and then no family visits; this was their first taste of spring,” said Mike Leebron, the executive director of Traditions of Spring Hill. “They FaceTime a lot, but nothing replaces in-person visits.”
Residents have been under quarantine since early March. During that time, the staff has provided numerous games, art projects and other activities to help keep up morale, motivation and mobility.
When she’s not cooking up something special in the kitchen, Tonja, one of the facility’s cooks, provides additional interactive fun playing the piano and leading residents in song, but the staff and families knew the best prescription was some kind of interaction with loved ones.
Residents held handmade signs with their own personal messages, such as, “I love you,” “Don’t worry, I’m fine,” “Love you and miss you,” “We want milk shakes,” “Blow kisses to me,” and “Nice to see you.”
Drivers held notes that addressed their loved ones in many different ways: “Hey Nana, miss and love you,” ”We love our seniors,” “We love you, Grumpa,” “We miss you, Grandpader.”
“(Residents) have been under quarantine for so long, (caregivers) wanted to do something for the families,” said Letitia Franklin, who came to see her mother-in-law. “We came to cheer up all the family members and our friends.”
Franklin’s daughter, Victoria, left work early to see her grandmother and added, “We wanted to spread some joy.”
Letitia Franklin said her mother-in-law enjoys FaceTime, but she misses being with her family. Seeing loved ones, even from a car window, will hold many over a few more weeks until they will hopefully once again be visiting in person.
The outcome, according to Dawn Clark, a Traditions of Spring Hill cook, “was a lot of happy faces and cheers.”
“These residents needed to see their families and friends,” she said. “Just about every resident came out.”
After the parade, it was evident that family members were as happy as the residents.
“It was a perfect day,” Victoria Franklin said.
Jenny Litwin and her friend, Mary White, both drove vehicles in the parade to see Litwin’s mother-in-law.
“I’m so happy they did this,” Litwin said. “It was a great way to say hello. It’s been so hard on them not to be able to see the people they love. It seemed like everyone was in good spirits.”
White added that the parade was “the best idea ever.”
“I want to thank the families, the fire and police departments — even our security officer donated extra security for the parade,” Leebron said. “Any silver lining coming of this virus is (that) people’s hearts have grown the last couple months. Everybody seems to have paused and taken stock of their lives.”