In late February, Shelton High School Headmaster Beth Smith received a letter from retired California educator Linda Rivkin. The letter contained an unusual request. Rivkin’s mother, Jennie Vellecco, would be turning 102 on April 6 and Linda requested that Smith find a group of students to go sing to her mother on or around her birthday.
Smith contacted the recreation department at Apple Rehab and got the ball rolling. She then contacted the SHS Extraordinary Changes Club to see if they were interested.
Celina Chapman, Club president, rounded up a group of students and on April 5, the group, accompanied by Smith and Club Advisor Megan Sherry, visited Vellecco and her friends at Apple Rehab.
The group presented Vellecco with a plant and happy birthday balloon. They also sang Happy Birthday and a few other songs. While the students were singing, Vellecco was conducting from her wheelchair.
Smith asked Vellecco to provide the students with some words of wisdom. Vellecco immediately responded, “You are always happier when you share an experience with friends.” She added, “Don’t give your mother any trouble. Don’t give your father any trouble and don’t give your boyfriend any trouble. Follow your mother’s advice and don’t embarrass your mother or father.”
As they were leaving, Smith informed students that this was a life lesson for them, “You took 15 minutes out of your day to make other people’s day much brighter and it makes you feel good.” She encouraged them to do this throughout the rest of their lives.