The KidDylan Trudell is making quite a name for himself at Knute Nelson Care Center (KNCC) in Alexandria. The residents love having a kid hanging around. They love his youthful spirit and twinkle of excitement when he comes to the care center to volunteer.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
Dylan Trudell is making quite a name for himself at Knute Nelson Care Center (KNCC) in Alexandria. The residents love having a kid hanging around. They love his youthful spirit and twinkle of excitement when he comes to the care center to volunteer.
They’re not the only ones who benefit from the visits. Trudell, 13, now has a place to go where everybody knows his name, and there’s no doubt – they’re always glad he came.
It’s all because of the mentor programs in School District 206.
Now an 8th grader at Discovery Middle School (DMS) in Alexandria, when he was in 4th grade, Trudell was partnered with Barb Flaig in the Lunch Buddy program (see related sidebar about the mentor programs).
When he moved on to middle school, he and Flaig decided to keep the mentorship going through the Match 2 Mentor program. With this next step, Barb’s husband, Bill, also joined in spending time with the teen.
Two to three times a month the Flaigs meet with Trudell for a couple hours and take part in various activities – playing cards, having dinner, playing games, ice skating, bowling, etc.
“It’s awesome. They are both really nice and kind people,” Trudell said.
At the beginning of the school year, Trudell decided he wanted to volunteer at KNCC. Because of his age, he needed an adult to accompany him. Barb was all for it.
Initially planned for every other Wednesday, that wasn’t enough for Trudell, so they made it a weekly event. The boy loved the visits so much that he started showing up by himself , but his age prevented him from being able to visit the residents alone.
Judy Thielke, volunteer coordinator at KNCC, recognized Trudell’s passion and the positive effect his visits had. She arranged for two students from Alexandria Technical and Community College to accompany him on his “rounds” every Tuesday.
“The residents were immediately drawn to him. It’s wonderful,” Thielke said. “He’s all smiles and twinkles in his eyes. He can’t get from one room to the next fast enough.”
During his trips to KNCC, Trudell helps with various activities and with transporting residents around the care center. But his main duty is to visit with residents – playing games, talking to them and bringing his dogs to visit.
“The people here are thrilled to see him,” Thielke said.
“I like to talk to people and it’s just fun,” Trudell said of why he likes to volunteer at KNCC. “I usually get along with people older than me.”
While Trudell enjoys all the elderly residents, there are three who hold a special place in his heart. He plays checkers with Helen Albeck, brings his dogs in to see Vi Watt, and plays cards with Gene Widstrom.
“Gene calls him ‘The Kid’,” Thielke said with an indulgent smile. “He says, ‘I like it when The Kid comes to see me.’ ”
Watt, who has posters of dogs hanging all over her room, loves it when the “puppy daddy” pays a visit – even when he comes without the dogs.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Watt said of her newfound friendship with Trudell. “I think I enjoy it the most. I reap all the rewards.”
As her young friend made to leave the room after a recent visit, Watt unexpectedly reached out her arms from her wheelchair. In response, the boy reached down and gave her a big hug, bringing tears to the eyes of Flaig and Thielke.
Even the staff members grin as they see Trudell bounce down the hall. From the maintenance man to the office staff to the nurses – no one is immune to his infectious charm, and they’re all his buddies.
“There’s Jack!” Trudell announced as he rushed up to the maintenance man, put his chin on his shoulder and had a discussion about how “famous” he is at KNCC.
While Thielke and Flaig see that the visits from The Kid bring joy to the staff and residents, they also see what it has done for him.
“It’s been so much fun to see this all evolve,” Flaig said. “He has really blossomed.”
Thielke agrees wholeheartedly, and admits that Trudell has a soft spot in her heart.
“He just wants to be here and is so well behaved,” she said. “I would give him all gold stars. It’s a win-win. It’s a win for him and a win for the residents.”
Knowing that life at times can be a struggle for teens, she and Flaig have seen that Trudell’s time at KNCC has been nothing but positive. And they have heard it right from him. When they talk to him about why he visits so often and enjoys it so much, his answer is immediate.
He likes it because the people there know him and they love him. And in a world where kids can get lost, when Trudell goes to Knute Nelson Care Center, he is proud to say that everyone knows his name.
Even when they forget and call him The Kid.
January is National
School District 206 celebrates mentor volunteerism and acknowledges mentors’ service each January during National Mentor Month.
A mentor provides secure attachment to an adult figure outside the child’s family. Mentors offer one-to-one support and attention. Mentors can boost a youth’s self-esteem and provide new experiences to broaden the youth’s view of opportunities and possibilities.
Currently, there are four mentor programs in School District 206 with 147 mentors (both adults and high school students) mentoring students in kindergarten through grade 12.
• There are 49 Lunch Buddy mentors, who provide attention, positive role modeling and friendship to an elementary student twice a month during the 50-minute lunch and recess time.
• There are 14 Match 2 Mentor volunteers. They offer youth in grades 5 to 9 emotional support, positive role modeling and new experiences through a one-to-one friendship outside of school time and year-round. The time commitment is four to six hours each month.
• There are 41 Student Match mentors – Jefferson High School students who are matched with an elementary child for one-to-one mentoring outside of school time.
• There are 43 Cross-Age Tutor mentors – Jefferson High School students who go to elementary school sites and Discovery Middle School once a week to tutor students after school.
The United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties and Alexandria Community Education fund the mentor programs.
For information or to be a mentor, call Alexandria Community Education at (320) 762-3310, extension 4274.