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Make a Difference Day brings out best of Franklin Regional students

| Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

As toe-tapping tunes filled the dining room at Golden Living Nursing Home during a Steelers pep rally, residents clapped their hands and smiled.

But their grins had little to do with the anticipation for Sunday's game -- it was because they were spending time with a group of 40 teens from Franklin Regional Middle School.

"They love seeing younger people come visit," said Lynn DeFalco, activities director at the Murrysville nursing home. "One gentleman was even crying as he heard their music. The residents love the inter-generational contact."

The visit was part of Franklin Regional's Make a Difference Day activities. In its 20th year, Make a Difference Day is the largest national day of community service. Typically held the fourth Saturday in October, the event is sponsored by USA Weekend and HandsOn Network.

The idea is simple - create a project that makes a difference in the community. At Sloan Elementary that means reaching out overseas. The school's Kid Kouncil is sponsoring a collection of items to send in stockings to soldiers serving overseas. The project is being held in collaboration with the American Sewing Guild. The group, in collaboration with Military Connections in Penn Hills, is finishing a "stockings for soldiers" program.

Students at the school were asked to donate various toiletries and stationery items. They also will design cards and write letters to send to the soldiers, said Becky Vincent, a second-grade teacher at the school and sponsor of the Kid Kouncil.

"It (Make a Difference Day) shows them there's a lot more to life than just themselves," Vincent said.

"It allows them to see that the world is a big place. When people come together to help out, it makes the world a better place."

Students also learn about giving and charity as well, Vincent said.

That's what Larry Silvestri, the middle school band director, hoped his students would walk away with from their nursing-home visit. When officials at Golden Living asked him if one of his bands would like to perform at a Steelers' pep rally, he hoped they would learn the importance of doing a good deed.

Alto saxophone player Nick Nutter enjoyed playing for the seniors.

"It's nice to be able to share our music," said Nutter, 14, of Export. "I liked seeing their expressions as we played and their appreciation."

Phyllis Shutterly, whose son Patrick plays the trumpet in the eighth-grade band, wishes her son and his classmates had more opportunities to play for shut-ins and others in the community.

"It's wonderful," said Shutterly of Murrysville. "They get an appreciation for people of different ages. He can use his music to brighten someone's day."

That's just what the students did, DeFalco said. About 35 residents took part in the pep rally, clapping and cheering with the band members.

"They respond better to younger people than those they see every day," DeFalco said. "Things like this get them out of their routine and let them enjoy the energy the younger people bring. It really sparks excitement."

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