ELSMERE — Students from Christ the Teacher Catholic School’s choir began Catholic Schools Week with a road trip to Elsmere to perform a service project for the military veterans seeking services at the Veteran Administration Medical Center there.
Thirteen girls in sixth through eighth grade, along with eighth-grader Brendan Mack, traveled to the medical center, along with music teacher Rick Johnson and principal Kelly Lanza. There, they sang a selection of songs in the lobby, then again in the facility’s canteen. Veterans and hospital employees listened to the music, with a few recording some of the performance on their cell phones.
The group opened with the Beatles’ classic, “Here Comes the Sun,” followed by the national anthem and “My Country Tis of Thee” and a few other selections. Mack also performed a piano solo in the lobby.
Lanza said one of Christ the Teacher’s board members is affiliated with the medical center and connected the school with the facility.
“There’s consistently an ask for music at different locations, and it’s really hard to get people to come out and commit,” she said.
Students who didn’t travel to Elsmere are also performing service for the veterans, Lanza said.
“As part of our service learning, we’re doing cards for the vets at every grade level and also seeking donations of coffee,” she said. “They go through coffee quite a lot.”
Sophia Franck, a sixth-grade student, said she didn’t know anything about the VA medical center before the visit. She described herself as “a little nervous, but overall it was pretty cool to have them watching us singing.”
Her classmate, Fiona Heaney, said her favorite song the choir performed was “You Can Count on Me.” She said she was nervous when a lot of people were watching, but it was worth it to perform for the veterans.
“They’ve done a lot for our country,” she said.
One veteran approached Lanza in the lobby to ask if there was a recording of the performance he could acquire. Unfortunately, there was not, but snippets could end up on the school’s website and social media, she told him. Another vet walked up to the choir in the canteen and thanked them for coming, saying the children didn’t know how much it meant to the patients and staff. Father Donald Van Alstyne, a retired Army chaplain and currently a chaplain at the medical center, heard the group was there and came up to the canteen to thank them as well.
For the choir’s efforts, the VA surprised the students, Johnson and Lanza with a complimentary lunch.
Photos by Mike Lang.