Gravenhurst resident Tracy McAra has always had a special place in her heart for the elderly, so in an effort to combat the isolation and stress brought on by the pandemic, she’s decided to bring smiles to seniors through surprise deliveries of flowers and gifts.
McAra started by reaching out to local florist Lana Austin, who owns and operates Blooming Muskoka in Gravenhurst. Austin put together small arrangements and even had smile balloons on hand to go along with the flowers. McAra added hand-written cards to each arrangement as well as a pair of Tommy Hilfiger socks for the men and made the first 12 deliveries on Jan. 26, bringing some packages to people she knew and others to strangers. She’s made many more deliveries since and thinking about the experience brings her to tears.
“I always knew that I would get lots out of it, but I honestly didn’t know how their reaction would be,” McAra said. “I knew that they would be happy, but it has just exploded with smiles, I guess you could say.”
For days after she made the first deliveries, McAra continued to receive phone calls from the people who received the gifts, sharing the impact it had on them. Some said they couldn’t help but smile when they woke up and saw the flowers and other items, while others said the smile balloon made them feel like they weren’t so alone.
After McAra shared the news of her initiative online and through local radio, friends and strangers alike started reaching out to her in hopes of getting involved. Smiles for Seniors has now spread to the Kanata area, Bradford and North Bay, and McAra hopes the movement will continue to gain traction.
“They’re very, very impressed with what I have come up with and hoping to spread more smiles for seniors in their communities as well,” she said. “That was my whole goal for this thing is to just spread lots of love and kindness around the world if we could because it’s a time of need.”
McAra was able to drop off some flower arrangements at Gravenhurst Manor, but because some facilities aren’t accepting flowers or other items due to COVID, she’s working to find candies or other small gifts that staff can distribute at the various long-term care homes in the area.
She hopes to continue Smiles for Seniors year after year and feels blessed to have so much support from the Gravenhurst community and beyond. Several of the seniors that received gifts as well as other members of the community have made donations to ensure McAra can continue to spread more smiles.
“I truly expected to take this journey myself, but I’ve been blessed to have some wonderful donations come in and I’m over the moon with that as well because I never expected that,” she said. “With those donations coming in, I’m going to be delivering smiles to seniors for days ahead.”
If you want to get involved with Smiles for Seniors, contact Tracy McAra through her Facebook page. Click the images below to scroll through a gallery of Smiles for Seniors recipients.