Park City Community Church’s Hug Patrol targets the area’s elderly
The Park City Community Church is always looking for ways to get more children involved with service projects, according to Tania McIntyre, who is part of the church’s children’s ministry.
McIntyre also made it clear that the children and their families don’t have to be members of the Park City Community Church’s congregation to participate in these outings.
This is one reason she created the Hugs Patrol, a group of children in grades kindergarten through fifth that visits facilities for the elderly.
"We try to go to every one of these places that are located in the area," McIntyre told The Park Record. "We visit nursing and assisted-living homes and places that take care of Alzheimer’s patients."
In addition to making the church’s children’s program more community based, Hugs Patrol is a way to help the local kids think outside of themselves, McIntyre said.
"We live in this beautiful and perfect world up here, and we want to teach our children to think of others," she explained. "What better way is there to help them get to know the elderly?
"One thing about children in general is that they don’t judge," McIntyre said. "Some of the residents have oxygen masks on. Some are missing limbs and some can’t talk. The kids are rarely scared of them. They just see these patients as people and they want to go hug them."
During these outings, the children develop confidence and a certain happiness that only comes through serving others, she said.
"They can see the emotions in the eyes of the those who can’t talk and they can feel the closeness and how much these patients appreciate the connection," McIntyre said. "Some of these patients cry in appreciation, and that’s great for the kids to see."
In addition to the hugging, the children spend time and talk with the patients.
"The elderly are kind of the forgotten population and we want them to tell their stories and their lives," McIntyre said. "So many of these people in these facilities don’t see their loved ones because they live so far away or there aren’t any who are living any more. So this is an awesome way for these people to be recognized for what they have done in their lives and to feel thought of and loved again. Can you imagine how it feels when a child shows that much interest in their lives?"
McIntyre takes a group of 15 kids on each outing.
"We don’t discriminate, so we sometimes bring the really little ones and preschoolers and the older ones to these nursing homes," she said. "We can take more. I would love to bring up to 20 kids each time."
McIntyre came up with the idea for Hugs Patrol seven years ago while visiting her mother in Wisconsin.
"It started with my twins, Colton and Tiana, who were three years old, after my mom asked if we wanted to go to ‘Sing Along’ with her," McIntyre said. "I asked what it was and it’s a program where people who live in nursing homes can get together and sing hymns and anything they want with someone playing the piano."
When the twins arrived at one nursing home hardly anyone sang because they were so enamored with the children.
"I told my son to hug a woman who was sitting in her wheelchair and before you knew it, the two children hugged all 40 people in the room," McIntyre said.
Then one of the people who worked at the home asked the kids could go to his mother’s room to give her a hug.
"We went to the room, knocked on the door and said, ‘Hug Patrol,’" McIntyre said. "And that’s how the name came about. We then went to every room and hugged everyone."
When kids join the Hug Patrol in Park City, they get at T-shirt that says "Hug Patrol" on the front and "I Love You" on the back.
"That way when the child walks away and the resident can see, they can read those words and know they are loved," McIntyre said. "It’s a win-win situation for everyone who is involved."
The next Hug Patrol outing by the Park City Community Church’s children’s ministry will be on Sunday, Nov. 2. The group will leave the Park City Community Church at 10:15 a.m. Anyone interested in going can visit http://www.parkcitychurch.org , or call the church at 435-649-8131.
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