January 11, 2024
The Innisfail Health Centre recreation therapy team of Dianna Dolman, left, Kerry Williams and Delaney Epp teamed up with Ron “Santa” King to spread some Christmas cheer during the festive season. Photo supplied.
Story by Jonathan Koch & Dianna Dolman
INNISFAIL — The efforts of staff, volunteers and community made December a month to remember for long-term care (LTC) residents at Innisfail Health Centre.
The Recreation Therapy team, led by Dianna Dolman, organized several fun activities for residents during the action-packed month, including Santa hat bingos, eggnog socials (non-alcoholic, of course), Christmas carols, gingerbread men decorating and a festive teddy bear craft.
Dolman says her favourite was the “adopt a grandparent” program, where community members anonymously donate personalized “Santa” gifts to residents, based on each individual’s wants and needs.
“To see the joy and smiles of the residents when they see Santa, and all of the feedback and appreciation the residents give, makes it so special to me,” adds Dolman, Recreation Therapist II.
Staff members also donated their time and skills to create a beautiful archway for residents and loved ones to take pictures with Santa Claus and his Recreation Therapy elves — namely, Dolman and recreation therapy assistants Kerry Williams and Delaney Epp.
Innisfail resident Ron King transformed into Santa Claus to spend time and present a personalized gift to each of the residents.
“I walked around a little bit afterwards and said, ‘have a Merry Christmas’,” says King, a fixture at community holiday celebrations for years now. “I think I brought a smile to most of them, and it was something different that they really appreciated.”
Residents also enjoyed plenty of entertainment, as well. Staff donated money anonymously for two performers to play for the residents. Myrna Gnyp, a regular volunteer who plays piano weekly at the facility, also performed a special day of Christmas music.
“What a delight to play Christmas songs and carols,” says Gnyp. "Connecting with the residents and, hopefully, making their day a little brighter while supporting an incredibly caring and hardworking recreation staff gives me joy and fulfilment. I have been truly blessed.”
Local students also joined in the fun, with Grade 1 students visiting residents for a day of crafts, Christmas songs and stories, while middle-school students delivered goodie bags for all.
Innisfail’s community spirit also shone brightly over the holiday season, with individuals, groups and businesses giving generously to the celebrations. Donations included gift bag items from Cooperators, lap blankets and bed quilts from the Quilters Guild of Red Deer, and free tours of Discovery Wildlife Park’s Light the Night event.
When asked his favourite part of the Christmas program, LTC resident Steven Kennedy says: “Music, big time!
“I also enjoyed the kids and Grade 1 class coming in. All the celebrations get you fired up and ready to go for the Christmas season.”
“As a family member of parents who reside at Rosefield Care Centre, the holiday season is extra special,” says Cheryl Sommers. “Our family is truly thankful to be a part of this caring and generous community.”
“Honestly, we're just so blessed,” adds Dolman. “I can't say ‘thank you’ enough to all of the caring and generous companies and people in this community."
“The loving, caring and sharing of the staff, volunteers and community really made me feel the magic of Christmas this year.”