Above, Brainard Elementary School fifth-graders share Valentine’s Day cheer with residents of Country Manor Healthcare in Lake View Terrace.

A Brainard Elementary student shares a quiet moment, and a valentine, with a Country Manor resident.

Bringing smiles, music and handmade cards, fifth-graders from Brainard Elementary School in Lake View Terrace paid a special visit Wednesday to a neighboring convalescent hospital that is home to military veterans and elderly residents.

Emblazoned with crayon messages or embellished with tempera paint, the construction-paper greetings brought smiles to the residents of Country Manor Healthcare. But, it was the games played and the conversations held with the cheery – and chatty – youngsters, that turned their mundane Wednesday into a holiday.

“They are very creative, very sweet,” said resident Troy Walker. “They make my Valentine’s Day complete.”

Brainard Principal Jaqué Kampschroer visits with a resident of a nearby convalescent center.

Although the fifth-graders were the only Brainard students to make the trip to Country Manor, all of the 175 students at the tidy neighborhood school participated in making the valentines as part of last month’s Great Kindness Challenge. Initially started as an anti-bullying campaign, the Kindness Challenge has been embraced by schools across the nation as a strategy for helping students develop social-emotional skills and interpersonal relationships.

And those skills were honed as Brainard kids found a lot to talk about with the County Manor residents. Students described their favorite class, gabbed about their siblings, revealed their own plans for Valentine’s Day. The youngsters also queried residents about their own lives, and 11-year-old Edith Herrera was astonished to learn that the woman she was talking to was a military veteran.

School Police Officers Arturo Cabrera, left, and Bill Flood join the Valentine’s Day visit.

“I’ve never met anyone who served in the military before, and I didn’t know that women could even be in the military,” Edith said. “It was wonderful.”

Classmate Adamaris Likez bubbled over with excitement at the opportunity to meet people other than her grandparents who have “gray hair and stuff.”

“It made me very, very, very happy to be here,” she said, “And, I want to make other people happy, too.”

The event was organized by Brainard Principal Jaqué Kampschroer, who recalled making valentines with her sons 20 years ago and then taking them to visit residents of a nursing facility near their home. In reaching out to Country Manor, she wanted to create the same kind of experience for her students.

“We felt real joy at making someone else happy,” Kampschroer said. “It was the best feeling I ever had.”


Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto and School Board Member Kelly Gonez, at left, and Principal Jaqué Kampschroer, far right, join fifth-graders on a Valentine’s Day visit to Country Manor Healthcare.