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Generations converge: Students share cookies and conversation with Plano seniors

This story was published in the Plano Star Courier.

By Kelsey Samuels,

Vincent Cirillo plays bingo with a group of BBYO volunteers Thursday morning at The Legacy Willow Bend retirement community.

Vincent Cirillo plays bingo with a group of BBYO volunteers Thursday morning at The Legacy Willow Bend retirement community.

The members of Legacy Willow Bend retirement community opened their doors and their bingo cards to a busload of teen volunteers Thursday morning. This weekend was the annual international convention for BBYO, an international youth philanthropy organization with chapters and groups all over the world.

Their annual convention took place in Dallas this weekend, but a handful of students came down a day early to volunteer their time at the Plano senior community.

Thursday morning, four groups of teens from Atlanta, Boston, New York and more played bingo with the Legacy Willow Bend members, helped decoupage and craft, or held conversations with residents from an older generation.

“This is really nice to have conversation like this,” said Lisa Harris, lifestyle coordinator for independent living. “My whole idea is just to have generational interaction. I think these kids are missing out on the elderly. It seems like they’re getting further away from each other, so it was nice to be able to connect them together.”

Sara Fink, Lily Stern and Ari Hagarty played a game of bingo with Vincent Cirillo, a retired biochemistry professor from the University of Texas in Dallas. Fink and Hagarty hail from the Philadelphia region. Stern is from Dallas.

In their respective regions, the girls regularly volunteer for their chapter’s stand-up cause, a group or initiative their chapter advocates for throughout the year, Stern said.

Hagarty said her chapter serves Special Olympics. Stern’s Dallas chapter works to spread awareness about Arteriovenous Malformation, or AVM, a tangle of blood vessels and arteries in the brain. According to the American Heart Association, AVM occurs congenitally in about one out of 200-500 people.

“One of the girls in my chapter actually has it. It’s an issue with her brain, so when she found out that she had it, we ended up making it our stand-up cause so we could learn about it and help her,” Stern said.

Fink said her chapter’s stand-up cause was suicide awareness, where they get together to raise money for organizations that have widespread influence on suicide prevention.

Last summer, she said she helped fight homelessness and hunger, “and it felt so great to do community service and give back to the community and help others who needed it,” she said. “I love giving back to the community.

Cirillo sat and talked with the BBYO teens Thursday morning over a game of bingo. As a new member of the retired life, he welcomed the conversation with the volunteers.

“I think it’s a great idea. We have four children, I have seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. We love kids of all ages,” he said. “It’s very nice.”

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