‘You are the stars’: Students write letters of encouragement for hospital workers, seniors, COVID patients

A group of Grade 3 and 4 students at Whyte Ridge Elementary School in Winnipeg have been busy over the last week writing letters of support and making holiday cards to seniors, hospital staff and COVID-19 patients.

The idea was brought up by a school councillor who heard about a local campaign — started last month by Winnipeg radio personality Ace Burpee — that encourages people to send cards to seniors who are alone during the holidays. 

The Whyte Ridge students took the idea even further, expanding the project to include hospital patients battling COVID-19 and health-care staff.

“Dear hospital staff: You are the stars in everyone’s darkness saving lives. Thank you for working so hard,” said Grade 4 student Alexis Hardy, who read some of the letters she wrote in class this week.

“I am sorry you don’t get to see your friends and family during the holidays,” she said.

More than 400 letters and holiday cards were made by students at Whyte Ridge Elemenatry School in Winnipeg this week. The letters will be sent to COVID-19 patients and hospital staff at St.Boniface Hospital to help boost their spirits over the holidays. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Classmate Emily Edwards wrote her letter to a patient battling COVID-19 in an intensive care unit.

“I wrote this one because I think patients really need encouragement right now, ’cause it’s really hard for them in the hospital,” she said.

She read some of her card out loud in class on Thursday.

“This year is not your year, but I hope you get to see your family in person soon and wishing you a fast recovery.”

Student Kiara Valete said she didn’t treat the letter she wrote as an assignment.

“I really understand what is happening. We’re going through really hard times right now, especially like right now,” she said.

“I hope they feel the glory when they read these letters.”

Grade 3 student Abhi Bhaskaran made a holiday card for a patient who is battling COVID-19 at St. Boniface hospital. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Grade 3 student Abhi Bhaskaran’s letter to a patient says, “I hope you feel better soon. I hope you make it out alive so you can see your family.”

Drew Vergata penned his letter to hospital staff.

“We are thankful for your sacrifice.… You all work your butts off to help us,” the letter said. “What would we do without you?”

‘It comes from the heart’: teacher

Those letters are just a few examples of the work done in Kathy Dudych’s Grade 3/4 split class.

More than 400 letters from Whyte Ridge School will be sent to seniors living at the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg and staff at St. Boniface Hospital next week.

Dudych said she felt pride after seeing the work her students did.

The letters will be sent to seniors living at the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg and staff at St. Boniface Hospital. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

“They embraced [the idea] and they ran with it,” she said. “They kept saying, ‘Who are we going to write the card for next?'”

Dudych said her students have been learning about gratitude, and giving back during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though it’s been a difficult year for everyone, including the kids.

She said some of her students have grandparents who they can’t visit in care homes right now because of the pandemic.

“There’s lots of things out of our control right now. We’re missing lots of things, and I thought it was important for the kids to change that mindset,” said Dudych.

“We talked about how service and helping others doesn’t have to cost money, it comes from the heart. And when I read all their cards that’s what comes out — it’s their heart and their personality.”

The project comes as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to increase in Manitoba. On Thursday, a record 357 were in hospital with the illness, including 52 in intensive care.

Dudych said she’s trying to keep the kids hopeful about the future, even though they understand the severity of the pandemic situation. 

“Coming to school is like a celebration. It’s something we can still do, and we need to be happy about that,” she said.

“But they all know what’s going on, and they know there’s lots of people who are struggling.”