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Online school student brings Valentine cheer to seniors

Keystone Bluffs resident Penny Bodell shares a smile with eighth grader Madeline Walczynski after she receives a handmade Valentine from Walczynski. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
"You're absolutely fetching, Valentine!" reads on of the handmade valentines created by students enrolled in the online public school Minnesota Connections Academy. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 3
Betty Johnson examines her handmade valentine. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 3

Keystone Bluffs Assisted Living resident Penny Bodell, originally of Hermantown, wasn't expecting to get a Valentine's Day card last Tuesday.

"No I didn't expect one. Maybe in the mail from one of my sons a few days later, but they're all grown up and busy with their own things," Bodell said.

So she was overjoyed when eighth grader Madeline Walczynski brought her a handmade valentine and a pink balloon.

"Oh my gosh, is that ever cute," Bodell said.

Walczynski, a student enrolled in the online public school Minnesota Connections Academy, brought about 40 cards and half a dozen balloons to senior citizens living in Keystone Bluffs as part of a school field trip.

The "Creating Winter Cheer & Valentine's Cards" project was created by Minnesota Connections science teacher Emily Johnston of St. Paul after she lost a loved one who was living in an assisted living center. Johnston made a video inviting all students in the school to make valentines in order to help seniors who may feel lonely and isolated during the holidays. Students could send cards to her in St. Paul for distribution, if they could not make it to a center themselves. On Tuesday, cards were dispersed by online academy students in St. Paul, Owatonna and Duluth.

Walczynski was joined by a local Minnesota Academy social studies teacher Taylor Shaw, who brought cards made from children around the state, mailed to him by Johnston.

"There are cards made from second to eighth graders in this bundle. It's so fun to see all the creative kids we have," Shaw said. "And it's such a good opportunity for Madeline to be out with community members, sharing stories and wisdom.

Walczynski made about 10 cards on her own.

"I wanted to make more, but I ran out of time," she said. "I wrote things like 'Happy Valentine's Day, you are loved!' and stuff like that."

Walczynski said she felt glad to bring the cards to the seniors.

"They can't really get out and celebrate Valentine's Day so we thought we'd bring it to them," Walczynski said. "I think they really liked the balloons, too. We tied them on people's wheelchair handles and walkers and they seemed pretty happy."

Bodell certainly enjoyed her pink heart shaped valentine.

"That has just made my day," Bodell said. "My husband of 65 years used to say that he'd place a valentine from me right over his heart. This is just like that."

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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