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Students provide sunshine on rainy Kane carnival day in McKeesport

| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 4:16 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Winchester Thurston sophomores Jessica Halbieb and Isabella Remor make fall wreaths with Kane residents Beth Faloskey and Luetisha Buckman during an indoor activity day on Monday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Winchester Thurston senior Noah Dumaine plays roulette with Kane resident Stella Schmotzer during an indoor activity day on Monday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Winchester Thurston junior Ariel Stein gives Kane resident Dorothy Stepko a manicure during an indoor activity day on Monday.

Winchester Thurston students put a new face on the annual resident carnival at John J. Kane Regional Center of McKeesport through a partnership with Pittsburgh Cares.

The carnival moved indoors because of Monday morning's heavy rain, but made good use of two program rooms that featured craft stations, game tables and a manicure area.

Approximately 20 students from the private Pittsburgh school arrived at the nursing home with doughnuts in hand, offering residents and staff a sweet treat before the festivities began.

“This group, the seniors and the students, are warming up to each other so well,” director of corporate projects for Pittsburgh Cares Amanda Trocki said. “The students are doing a great job, because they're fun and energetic. This is a real brightening of a rainy day.”

Recreation therapy director Ken Schmigel said simply having students in the building brings immeasurable joy to Kane residents.

“Today is especially special because our visitors are young people,” Schmigel said. “Our residents not only like to see new faces, but they love to see young people.”

Senior Shala Barney said she didn't know what to expect.

“At first I was nervous,” she admitted. “I didn't know what to say, but everyone here is so welcoming. They're happy and friendly. Everyone keeps saying, ‘thank you.'”

While having her nails painted by junior Ariel Stein, Dorothy Stepko watched the students guiding her neighbors through activities.

“It's wonderful — all these young faces,” she said.

Danette Hopkin of Elizabeth Township, Stepko's daughter, said the mingling of generations is a positive experience for all involved.

“It gives the residents a sense of their youth,” Hopkin said. “The young people are interesting and vibrant. It's a totally different generation to talk to.”

That connection is one of many life lessons that Winchester Thurston's staff impresses upon the students.

“Our students look forward to the days that they get to interact with people in the community,” teacher Callie Gropp said. “Often the work we do outside of the classroom is of equal importance to what we do in the classroom.”

Winchester Thurston students volunteered at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and at points along the Great Allegheny Passage.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or