By Erinn Unger
Skagit Valley Herald
SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Sadie Linn and Yelena are pals.
They worked carefully and happily Friday on a holiday card together, both leaning over the small table affixed to Yelena’s wheelchair.
Yelena, 10, pressed a vibrant autumn leaf to the paper. Linn, 89, drew a heart in red. Soon, the feathers meant for their paper art project were in their hair instead.
“Are you happy I’m here?” Linn asked.
“Yeah,” Yelena replied simply before flashing a megawatt grin.
The residents of Country Meadow Village retirement community went back to school Friday, visiting Evergreen Elementary to complete an art project with the Life Skills class, a program for students with disabilities that combines academics with teaching social interaction skills.
“It definitely brings a lot of joy to them,” said teacher Amryl Geary of her students and the visits from their friends at the Village. The visits bring out conversational interaction for students who are usually nonverbal and gives a safe, joyful environment for the students to practice their social skills.
“We fight over the kids. We want them all,” Linn said.
The program started about three years ago and the class has traditionally visited the retirement community. However, budget cuts have taken a toll on the finances available for field trips, Geary said.
Working around the financial limitations, the seniors visited the school for the first time Friday as part of the retirement community’s Art for the Ages celebration.
Despite the change in scenery, there’s still hot chocolate and cookies all around, just like the kids get when they visit the Village.
Rodrigo, 10, had been looking forward to the visit all week. He made one card for his mom and another for his dad with Janet Monk, 75.
“They’re very fun,” Rodrigo said of the seniors.
Monk said the students teach her “so much” — including how to play Uno.
“They lift my spirits,” she said. “…They make the whole day worthwhile.”
Pictured: Sadie Linn, 89, helps Yelena, 10, paste a gold leaf on her fall greeting card Friday at Evergreen Elementary School in Sedro-Woolley. Seniors from Country Meadow Village visited the Life Skills class at the school to help the children with art projects. Scott Terrell / Skagit Valley Herald