Thomas Jefferson Leadership students have been playing croquet with the Jiminy Wicket program for five years, and will continue to bring smiles for many years to come.
When asked to ponder the happiest things they can, people often think of similar scenarios. Maybe it’s stumbling across a basket of puppies, or perhaps close friends reuniting after years of being apart. Both are wonderful, but very few things compare to rooms full of smiles as teens throughout the U.S. and U.K. bridge the gap between generations through games of croquet with the elderly. This is a description of Jiminy Wicket, a wonderful program which TJ’s leadership class has been participating in for five years. Spartans in this program are able to connect with a demographic with whom they likely do not usually interact.
Jiminy Wicket began when the founder, James Creasey, discovered that most sports and games were not suited for both him and his elderly father (who had recently been diagnosed with dementia after suffering a stroke). In his search for an engaging activity that would not be too taxing on the mind or body of his father, Creasey finally decided to try croquet, and it was a grand success. The fun that the two of them were able to have while playing inspired a tradition in the family that allowed all members to be able to engage with Creasey’s father in a new way. The success gave Creasey an idea for a program to spread this joy with children and seniors around Colorado and, eventually, farther. In response to this idea, he and his brother Andrew began training high schoolers and college students to play with people from local senior care communities.
TJ’s involvement in the program has not only provided a fun outing for participating seniors, but has been enriching for the students as well. At first, according to TJ Assistant Principal Jon Poole, “So many kids maintain a large distance and seem afraid,” but as time progresses, he says, “Those barriers come down. Students who have done it for a couple of years seem to love it, and they become so connected and gentle.” This shift in attitude does not only happen for the students. In fact, the same goes for the seniors. When asked about the dynamic between the two groups, TJ junior and leadership member Mary Jarecke recalled, “The seniors are usually unsure and reserved when we start off, but by the end of the day, everyone is smiling and laughing.” It seems that the program easily reaches its goal of bridging generational gaps and knocking down the walls that different age groups might put up between one another. As Creasey stated on the Jiminy Wicket website, “Everybody goes home with a pocket-full of smiles.”
The program does not just unite the generations, however. For TJ Leadership, it has also served as a bonding experience between peers. They are placed in an unfamiliar situation from which first-time participants might not know what to expect, and so they must work together to overcome their discomfort and make the experience enjoyable for all. Jarecke reflects, “Throughout the year, it has definitely made the leadership class come together to make sure everyone is having a good time.” The Jiminy Wicket program at TJ has not only proven to fulfill the goals of the Creasey brothers to bring generations together, but has also contributed to the ultimate goal of the Spartans to come together and inspire not only one another, but their entire community.