There’s a new student-started club at Wilton High School that’s putting a modern spin on a retro idea, all in the name of bringing joy to other people.
At the start of this school year, two students–WHS junior Nora Noel Nolan and sophomore Shelby Connor started a Candy Stripers club. The idea harkens back to a concept that the founders say originated in the 1940s, when teenage boys and girls would volunteer at hospitals to make the patients’ stays more pleasant. The job title of ‘candy striper’ derived from the red and white striped smocks worn by the volunteers.
The new Wilton High School Candy Stripers club, named in homage to candy stripers of yore, have made it their primary goal to bring a bit of joy to the lives of those in assisted living facilities, and eventually hospitals,
“While we do not wear these smocks, we employed the name ‘Candy Stripers’ for our club because we mimic the concept of bringing a bit of joy into assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and eventually hospitals,” Connor explains.
The teens came together out of a desire to be altruistic, mainly because they have seen the need first hand, she adds.
“All of us know of a friend or family member who has spent time in one of these facilities. Compassion for the people in this situation because of personal experience, is what unifies the club members. For instance, my great aunt had a stroke at a very young age, resulting in the paralyzation of the entire right side of her body. She could not walk, nor speak and ended up living in a nursing home for 13 years. Often times, I went with my mom to visit her every few weeks or so. Each visit was extremely saddening, for many [residents] were alone and bored. Unfortunately, while patients’ families and friends try to visit, school, work, and proximity get in the way. A simple visit can truly brighten somebody’s day. Our club honors the people we know that have been through the same experience, by visiting folks in our community that we do not know, in need of some cheer.”
The club recently put that philosophy into practice when they visited The Greens at Cannondale on Sunday, Dec. 6. Nolan, Connor and 11 other club members hosted a holiday party for the Greens residents. They booked entertainment in the form of Wilton High School’s very own jazz ensemble, Black Tie Affair, and enjoyed a raffle, passed out homemade holiday cards, and served holiday treats.
Club members say they benefitted from helping others, and enjoyed themselves perhaps even more so than the residents they were there to cheer. “Every member enjoyed chatting, singing, and laughing with the people there. We truly feel as if we brought some much needed holiday cheer,” Connor says.
Her peers agree.
“There is nothing quite as empowering as giving back, and seeing smiles lighten strangers faces, just because you showed them you care,” said one member, Kaylynn Gunzy.
Another, Luke Terradista, agreed. “It was a lot of fun bringing cheer to those who can’t get out as much and perhaps feel alone during the holidays.” So did member Kennedy Snyder: “I thought that it was a really nice event and I am glad we were able to brighten the days of others.”
Connor says the members hope word of the club spreads so that other students might consider joining. They also plan to host more events like their Greens party throughout the course of the year.
“We discussed doing an event around Valentine’s Day. We are also hoping to visit the Wilton Meadows in the near future, as well as Norwalk hospital, which can be a bit more difficult to get to because of the location and volunteer regulations,” she says.
Wilton High School students interested in joining the Candy Stripers club should email Shelby Connor.