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Second-graders meet their pen pals after a year of sending letters

by Stephanie Mason, Centennial Citizen

Cil Stenman, 80, reached across the table to hold the hand of her pen pal, Abby Brown, 9, as Brown read Stenman her favorite book, “On Top of Spaghetti.”

This was the first time they had met after exchanging letters since August.

“I am happy,” Brown said. “I am so excited to meet you, the best pen pal.”

Second-graders from Cherry Hills Christian School in Highlands Ranch met their senior-citizen pen pals for the first time on April 28 at the Holly Creek Retirement Community in Centennial.

Stenman had knit a small teddy bear named “Chocolate” for Brown. The day the two met, it was Brown’s ninth birthday and Stenman sang her “Happy Birthday.”

Phoebe Alfke, 85, said she hung letters from her pen pal, Kayla Boerman, on her fridge. The two had never seen photos of each other but created a strong friendship before finally meeting.

“It is kind of like a mystery,” Alfke said. “You are writing back and forth and wondering what she looks like. I just think she is a little cutie.”

“I think you are, too,” Boerman said.

Over the course of the school year, the pen pals exchanged five letters.

“We are excited,” said Alice Garrett, 76, hugging her pen pal, Abigail Wood.

“Yeah,” said Wood, 8, while jumping up and down. “I am happy, excited and more happy.”

Each of the second-grade students brought a favorite book to read to their pen pals. Alice Hulings, 91, drug her fingers beneath the words that her pen pal, Katie Boyes, 7, sitting on Hulings’ lap, focused on reading aloud.

“You are an excellent reader,” Hulings said.

Kitty Dobbs, a volunteer coordinator at the Holly Creek Retirement Community, said the children need the one-on-one attention that the senior citizens have time to give. The senior residents, many of whom were teachers, she said, love interacting with the students.

“The residents really look forward to it,” Dobbs said. “These residents are young at heart. This really brings out their inner child.”

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